Employment Law Guide
Federal Contracts-Working Conditions: Hours and Safety Standards in Construction Contracts
DOL Agency Assistance
- Who Is Covered
- Basic Provisions/Requirements
- Employee Rights
- Recordkeeping, Reporting, Notices and Posters
- Relation to State, Local, and Other Federal Laws
- Compliance Assistance Available
- DOL Contacts
Updated: December 2016
Contract Work Hours and Safety Standards Act (CWHSSA)
(40 USC §3701 et seq.;(https://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/statutes/safe01.pdf) 29 CFR Part 5(/elaws/leave-dol.asp?exiturl=https://www.ecfr.gov/cgi/t/text/text-idx^Q^c=ecfr|amp;sid=99c9a20e960f56be66f17ae91b52c888|amp;rgn=div5|amp;view=text|amp;node=29:220.127.116.11.6|amp;idno=29&exitTitle=www.ecfr.gov&fedpage=yes))
Who is Covered
The Contract Work Hours and Safety Standards Act (CWHSSA) is administered by the Wage and Hour Division (WHD). CWHSSA applies to contractors and subcontractors on certain contracts with the federal government or the District of Columbia that require or involve the employment of laborers or mechanics (including guards and watchmen), including federal service contracts and federal construction contracts over $150,000. Covered contracts include those entered into by the federal government, any agency or instrumentality of the federal government, any territory of the U.S., or the District of Columbia.
CWHSSA also applies to certain federally assisted construction contracts over $100,000 subject to Davis-Bacon and Related Acts wage standards where the Federal Government is not a direct party, except those contracts where the federal assistance takes the form only of a loan guarantee or insurance.
Certain contracts are exempt from CWHSSA. These include contracts for the following:
- Transportation by land, air, or water;
- Transmission of intelligence;
- Purchase of supplies, materials, or articles ordinarily available in the "open market";
- Work required to be done in accordance with provisions of the Walsh-Healey Public Contracts Act; and
- Contracts administratively exempted by the Secretary of Labor in special circumstances in the public interest to prevent injustice or undue hardship or to avoid serious impairment of government business.
The Contract Work Hours and Safety Standards Act (CWHSSA) requires contractors and subcontractors to pay laborers and mechanics, including watchmen and guards, employed in the performance of covered contracts one and one-half times their basic rate of pay for all hours worked over 40 in a workweek.
The Contract Work Hours and Safety Standards Act (CWHSSA) provides workers on covered contracts the right to receive one and one-half times their basic rate of pay for all hours worked over 40 in a workweek on such contracts. The Wage and Hour Division accepts complaints of alleged CWHSSA wage violations. Wage and Hour Division district offices are listed at www.dol.gov/whd/america2.htm.
Recordkeeping, Reporting, Notices and Posters
Notices and Posters
The Contract Work Hours and Safety Standards Act (CWHSSA) does not have its own posting requirement. However, if the contract to which CWHSSA applies is subject to the Davis-Bacon and related Acts’ requirements, the Notice to all Employees Working on Federal or Federally Financed Construction Projects (PDF)for Davis-Bacon contracts poster must be posted. If the contract to which CWHSSA applies is subject to the Service Contract Act’s requirements, the “Employee Rights on Government Contracts” poster must be posted. The appropriate poster(s) must be posted at the site of the work in a prominent and accessible place where it may be easily seen by employees. There is no size requirement for these posters but they must be easily readable.
The Contract Work Hours and Safety Standards Act’s (CWHSSA) recordkeeping requirements include maintaining payroll records that provide the following information for each covered worker:
- Social Security number;
- Correct classifications;
- Hourly rates of wages paid;
- Daily and weekly number of hours worked;
- Deductions made; and
- Actual wages paid.
Records must be maintained during the course of the work and for a period of three years from the completion of the contract. They also must be made available to the contracting agency and the Department of Labor.
Depending on the type of federal contract involved, the recordkeeping requirements of the Davis-Bacon and Related Acts or the McNamara-O'Hara Service Contract Act may also apply to contracts subject to the CWHSSA.
Weekly payroll statement.On contracts to which the labor standards provisions of the Davis-Bacon and Related Acts (DBRA) apply, each contractor and subcontractor is required by the DBRA to provide the federal agency a weekly statement of the wages paid to each of its employees engaged in covered work. Each payroll submitted must be accompanied by a Statement of Compliance using page 2 of Form WH-347 Payroll (For Contractors Optional Use), or any form with identical wording, certifying compliance with applicable requirements. The statement is to be signed by the contractor or subcontractor or by an authorized officer or employee of the contractor or subcontractor who supervises the payment of wages. The statements must be delivered to a representative of the federal or state agency in charge. This must be submitted within seven days after the regular pay date for the pay period.
Contractors or subcontractors who intentionally violate the Contract Work Hours and Safety Standards Act (CWHSSA) may be subject to fines, imprisonment, or both.
Contractors and subcontractors who violate CWHSSA’s overtime wage provision are liable to the affected employee(s) for the unpaid wages. Overtime wage violations may also result in the assessment of liquidated damages assessed for each calendar day an employee is allowed to work in excess of a 40-hour workweek without payment of the required overtime compensation.
Accrued contract amounts may be withheld in sums necessary to satisfy the liability for unpaid wages and liquidated damages. Any contractor or subcontractor aggrieved by withholdings for liquidated damages may appeal to the head of the contracting agency. The agency head shall review the administrative determination and issue a final order. If the damages sum is determined to be incorrect, or the contractor or subcontractor inadvertently violated the provisions of the CWHSSA while exercising due care, the agency head may recommend appropriate adjustments in the liquidated damages to the Administrator of the Wage and Hour Division, who shall issue an order with respect to the recommendation. Such order may be appealed to the Department’s Administrative Review Board (Board). The contractor or subcontractor may file a claim in the U.S. Claims Court for all final orders mandating a liability for withholding of liquidated damages.
Employees have rights of action and/or of intervention against the contractor and its sureties if the amounts withheld are insufficient to reimburse the unpaid wages. Under such an action, it is no defense that employees accepted less than the required rate of wages or voluntarily made refunds.
Contractors or subcontractors found to have committed willful or aggravated violations of CWHSSA’s overtime requirements may have their contracts terminated and may be declared ineligible to receive future contracts for a period not to exceed three years.
Contractors or subcontractors may challenge the Wage and Hour Division’s determinations of violations before an Administrative Law Judge. Contractors or subcontractors may appeal decisions and orders of Administrative Law Judges that result in payment of wages or debarment to the Administrative Review Board (ARB). ARB determinations on violations and debarment may be appealed to and are enforceable through the federal courts.
Relation to State, Local, and Other Federal Laws
The provisions of the Contract Work Hours and Safety Standards Act (CWHSSA) may also apply to Davis-Bacon and Related Acts contracts where the contract is financed in whole or in part by grants or loans from the U.S. Government, or loans insured or guaranteed by the U.S. Government, except where the federal assistance is only in the nature of a loan guarantee or insurance. CWHSSA is supplemental to the overtime requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act. In addition, state overtime laws may apply to certain contracts.
Compliance Assistance Available
The Department of Labor provides employers, workers, and others with clear and easy-to-access information and assistance on how to comply with the Contract Work Hours and Safety Standards Act.
The Employment Law Guide is offered as a public resource. It does not create new legal obligations and it is not a substitute for the U.S. Code, Federal Register, and Code of Federal Regulations as the official sources of applicable law. Every effort has been made to ensure that the information provided is complete and accurate as of the time of publication, and this will continue. Later versions of this Guide will be offered at www.dol.gov/compliance or by calling our Toll-Free Help Line at 1-866-4-USA-DOL (1-866-487-2365) (1-866-487-2365).