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Wisconsin’s Prevailing Wage Law Might Not Prevail

Peter J. Richter

Douglas C. Scriver

May 18, 2017

For some time, contractors working on construction projects funded by the State of Wisconsin or a ‘local government unit’ (e.g. cities, villages, counties, school districts, etc.) were legally obligated to pay those employees who were working on the public project a “prevailing wage” along with overtime based on the prevailing wage for any overtime work (defined as more than 10 hours per day or 40 hours per week).  The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) was charged with determining the pertinent prevailing wages.  The DWD took into account such factors as project location and the specific trades or occupations of the contractors’ employees in calculating the applicable prevailing wages for a particular project.  Any contractor who failed to pay the mandated prevailing wage faced penalties and debarment.  The issue of prevailing wages has been particularly contentious over the past few years as Governor Walker and some members of the Senate and Assembly have taken steps to end prevailing wage requirements for certain projects.

Effective January 1, 2017, Wisconsin’s prevailing wage requirements applicable to public works projects for local government units were repealed.  Nevertheless, prevailing wage requirements remain in place for contractors working on public works projects for the State or its agencies, or highway projects under a contract to which the State is a party (except that the U.S. Department of Labor now determines prevailing wages).

However, 2017 Senate Bill 216 and 2017 Assembly Bill 296 (which are identical) have been introduced, and, if either bill is enacted, Wisconsin’s prevailing wage requirements applicable to State projects will be abolished.  While supporters contend that the proposed repeal is intended to decrease costs of, and increase competition among contractors bidding for, State projects, opponents argue that it will have the effect of lowering incomes for middle class families.  We will provide updates if and when the repeal grows closer to materializing.


If you have any questions about how the information in this article may affect you or your business, please contact Peter Richter at prichter@stroudlaw.com or Doug Scriver at dscriver@stroudlaw.com or (608) 257-2281 or your Stroud attorney.

DISCLAIMER: The information in this article is provided for general informational purposes only, is not necessarily updated to account for changes in the law, and should not be considered tax or legal advice.  This article is not intended to create, nor does the receipt of it constitute, an attorney-client relationship.  You should consult with your own legal and/or financial advisors for legal and tax advice tailored to your specific circumstances.