With Massachusetts, our friendly neighbor directly to the south, many New Hampshire employers send their employees into Massachusetts in the course of their employment. When this occurs, New Hampshire employees may come under the protection of Massachusetts’ Statutes. In particular, New Hampshire employees may be entitled to the benefits of the Massachusetts Prevailing Wage Statutes when working on state funded construction projects.
The Massachusetts Prevailing Wage Statute establishes a minimum wage to be paid by all contractors to their employees on state and local public works projects. The minimum wages to be paid for each trade working on the project is set by the Commissioner for the Department of Labor and Work Force before the beginning of the project. The statute specifies that the wages established by the Commissioner shall be not less than those rates that have been established in certain trades and occupations by collective agreements or understanding in private construction industry between organized labor and employers. In other words, if an employee in a New Hampshire plumbing company is earning $10.00 per hour but is sent to work on a public works project in Massachusetts, the employee will be entitled to the trade rate established for plumbers on the particular project, which could be 3 to 4 times greater than his or her ordinary hourly wage.
The only exception applied under the statute is for apprentices registered with the Division of Apprentice and Training. If the employee is in a registered apprentice program, the Commissioner for the Department of Labor and Work Force will assign a separate rate for this employee. However, merely holding an apprentice license does not entitle the employer to pay the apprentice the lower rate. Massachusetts law is clear that a person holding an apprentice’s license must be paid the full journeyman rate established by the Commissioner for the Department of Labor and Work Force, unless the employee is part of the formal apprentice program. In order to pay a registered apprentice less than the minimum wage, the employer must comply with the following criteria: (1) enter into a written agreement with the employee; (2) the employer must agree, among other things, to provide the employee at least 150 hours per year of related classroom instruction and 4,000 hours of continuous work, of which 2,000 hours must be as an apprentice; and (3) the agreement must be registered with and approved by the Director for the Division of Apprentice Training. If the employer fails to comply with any of these statutory requirements, the employer must pay the employee, regardless of his or her experience or skill level, the full rate for the particular job classification with no exceptions.
While New Hampshire does not have a Prevailing Rate Statute for state and local public works projects, there is a Prevailing Wage Statute for all public work projects which received funding from the federal government. Under the Davis-Bacon Act, there is also a minimum wage established for all contractors on federally funded projects under a very similar outline as the Massachusetts Prevailing Wage Statute. If you have any questions or unsure if you have not been paid the full wage you deserve, please contact one of the attorneys of Hamblett & Kerrigan, PA for a consultation.
Kevin P. Rauseo is a former director at Hamblett & Kerrigan P.A. and has since been appointed as a Justice for the New Hampshire Circuit Court. Please feel free to contact another attorney at Hamblett & Kerrigan to discuss your legal issues.