Prevailing Wage Rules, Requirements, & Penalties for Washington

Prevailing Wage Law and Gavel

In 1945, The Washington State Public Works Act was revised. It requires that government employees be paid prevailing wages for all public work. The prevailing wage rates are established by The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries. It is the hourly wage and overtime that construction and maintenance contractors must pay their employees. These wage rates are different for every county and reflect local wage conditions.

Washington Prevailing Wage Requirements

The WDLI’s collects wage and hour data from contractors and labor unions in the surveys. These surveys are generally done after a duration of three years. The survey lists are created considering industrial insurance, intent, and Affidavit filing and licensing data. If most of the workers in a trade or occupation get the same wage for a specific work, that rate becomes the prevailing wage. But if there are different wage rates, the average wage is calculated. 

Washington Prevailing Wage Rules

These sections are included in the revised code of Washington (RCW) and Washington Administrative Code (WAC):

  • In RCW 39.04.010, Public works projects.
  • RCW 39.12.020 and WAC 296-127-023 act for building service maintenance such as janitors, waxers, shampooers, and window washers.
  • RCW 39.12.030 for construction, reconstruction, building maintenance, or repair
  • Turn-key leases, rentals, or purchases in RCW 39.04.260
  • WAC 296-127-010(5)(b) is about the off-site fabrication of non-standard items for a public works project 

These all sections include information on the revised code of WAC. The owners generally don’t have to pay the prevailing wage to themselves for work they do on the project. But all other employees must be paid at the prevailing wage rate.

Statement of Intent

According to Washington law, every contractor and subcontractor has to file a Statement of Intent to Pay Prevailing Wages. Before starting work, they will get a contract after submitting a form. L&I file this form and approve the statement of intent. The agency administering the contract can also review this form. 

Weekly Certified Payroll Reports

From January 2020, contractors must have to submit weekly certified payroll reports for all prevailing wage jobs directly to L&I. They can submit these reports through the online Prevailing Wage Intent and Affidavit system. The Labor and Industries oversee the certified payroll report form to make sure that everyone gets paid correctly. The construction payments will be ceased until there is an issue in the paperwork. 

Penalties for non-compliance

Contractors have to pay $5,000 or an amount equal to 50 percent of the total wage as a penalty for non-payment of prevailing wage. They can also get 1% interest every month for each occurrence or employee. If there is an error in calculating straight time work and overtime work, you have to pay the penalty. Even if you’re a contractor or employee, double-check with Labor and Industries to see if the project is public or not.


According to the Washington State Public Works Act, every local government contractor and subcontractor has to pay prevailing wages to workers. This implies for every public work and maintenance contract on public buildings and projects. The contractors have to submit their weekly payroll reports to L&I. If any contractor fails to pay their employees, a heavy penalty will be charged.

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