Awarding Authorities Play Key Role in Prevailing Wage Compliance

The Foundation for Fair Contracting of Massachusetts announces a new Public Construction Watch column designed to recognize Massachusetts municipal and state awarding authorities who demonstrate accountability for compliance with public construction laws.

Awarding authorities must receive, maintain and review certified payroll records to ensure prevailing wage compliance. Section 28 of the same law provides construction workers with “right of action” against a city or town for debt recovery.
Awarding Authorities can also prevent prevailing wage violations by challenging bids that are significantly below the average bid price. An irresponsibly low bid can trigger a preliminary hearing where the contractor must demonstrate how it will complete the project and comply with state laws. Based on findings of fact, an awarding authority may reject a low bid as long as the determination is not made in an arbitrary, capricious or illegal manner. The process could easily prevent delayed or unfinished projects and save hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars.

FFCM assists awarding authorities to identify and correct violations of the law before involving state enforcement agencies and resources. Our staff targets public projects throughout the Commonwealth, monitors bidding, collects and reviews certified payroll records, mails to workers and tracks cases to resolution. Potential bid irregularities or certain types of wage and certified payroll record violations are reported directly to the responsible town, city or state awarding authority for corrective action. Since 2010, FFCM has transmitted over 200 cases of alleged violations.

The Foundation works closely with responsive authorities to ensure that contractors paid with public tax dollars are accountable for compliance. Awarding authorities have required contractors to pay their workers restitution for missed “step” increases, submit certified payroll records weekly, resubmit non-compliant records with requisite complete and accurate information, or make other adjustments. This kind of enforcement by awarding authorities sends a clear message to all stakeholders that cheating workers, shortchanging taxpayers and undercutting law abiding contractors will not be tolerated.

The Foundation salutes the following Awarding Authorities for their cooperation and commitment to compliance and fair contracting:

Fraudulent Payrolls, Shady Unemployment, and a Dodgy Employer

Dear Compliance Man,

My husband and many of his coworkers are not getting paid the prevailing wage as required on state projects. The owner of the company also fraudulently fills out certified payrolls, which as you know are required on these projects. My husband has been collecting unemployment for months, as are many others at the company, but still getting paid under the table by the owner. Many of my husbands “paychecks” bounce for his under the table work.

This has been going on for years, and while we realize that we weren’t doing the right thing by working and accepting these checks while collecting unemployment it has now gotten to the point where it needs to be exposed.We just want to survive as a family.

I’m 100% certain that when you interview the workers, all these issues will be found to be accurate. I hesitate to sign this letter because of the owner’s volatile temper and repercussions that may happen should I become involved.

–Had It

Dear Had It,

First of all, thanks so much for being brave and honest enough to come forward. This obviously wasn’t an easy letter for you to write.

Now for the good news. The state of Massachusetts has begun to crackdown on employers, like your husband’s, who skirt the law through various “off the books” schemes. A new anonymous tip-line (1-877-627-7233) has been set up to help workers report fraud at their workplaces, and a tough new state law will entitle workers who’ve been underpaid or denied overtime to triple damages paid by their employers. You’ve done your part by alerting authorities to what sounds like a serious case of workplace fraud.

For more commonly asked Compliance Man questions, visit the Compliance Man archives. Send your question to

Working in Worcester? My Employer Says I Did…

Dear Compliance Man,

I recently got a mailing from you folks and it showed me working on a construction project way out in Worcester. Well, I’ve never worked out there. So why would my name show up on some project that I’ve never worked on?

— Confused in Canton

Dear Confused,

Unfortunately the situation you described happens all too often.

Here’s how it works: Massachusetts requires every contractor who works on public construction projects to submit certified payrolls to the state, showing who’s working on the project and how much they’re getting paid. Some contractors pad their payrolls with fake names to avoid paying the legally-mandated wage. Some of these ghost workers are just that—ghosts—but others are like you, real folks who are listed on projects they’ve never worked on.

So what does it mean for you? Other than an unpleasant surprise, not much. But for the employer who misused your name, it’s likely to mean all sorts of trouble. Contractors who pad their payrolls with “ghosts” often have plenty to hide, and the Attorney General won’t hesitate to look into this contractor’s story.

Thanks for writing!

For more commonly asked Compliance Man questions, visit the Compliance Man archives. Send your question to