Employment Law Guide
Federal Contracts-Working Conditions: Hours and Safety Standards in Construction Contracts
DOL Agency Assistance
- Who Is Covered
- Basic Provisions/Requirements
- Worker Rights
- Recordkeeping, Reporting, Notices and Posters
- Relation to State, Local, and Other Federal Laws
- Compliance Assistance Available
- DOL Contacts
Updated: October 2023
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 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 watchpersons), including federal service contracts and federal construction contracts over $150,000 ($100,000 for federal construction contracts that are not subject to the Federal Acquisition Regulations). 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 labor standards where the federal government is not a direct party, except CWHSSA does not apply to work where the federal assistance is only 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 federal government business.
The Contract Work Hours and Safety Standards Act (CWHSSA) requires contractors to pay laborers and mechanics, including watchpersons and guards, employed in the performance of covered contracts not less than 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 not less than 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 local offices are listed at www.dol.gov/whd/america2.htm.
It is prohibited to retaliate against or fire workers or job applicants for engaging in protected activities such as making a complaint or cooperating in a Wage and Hour Division investigation under the CWHSSA.
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 of Worker Rights on Federal or Federally Financed Construction Projects poster must be posted. If the contract to which CWHSSA applies is subject to the Service Contract Act's requirements, the "Worker Rights on Government Contracts" poster must be posted. The appropriate poster(s) must be posted at the worksite in a prominent and accessible place where it may be easily seen by workers. There is no size requirement for these posters but they must be easily readable.
The Contract Work Hours and Safety Standards Act (CWHSSA) requires contractors to maintain records that provide the following information for each covered worker:
- Telephone number;
- Email Address;
- Street Address;
- Social Security number;
- Correct classification(s) of work performed;
- Hourly rates of wages paid, including rates of contributions or costs anticipated for bona fide fringe benefits or their cash equivalents;
- Daily and weekly number of hours worked;
- Deductions made; and
- Actual wages paid.
Contractors must maintain these records during the course of the work and for a period of three years after all the work on the prime contract is completed. They also must be made available to the contracting agency and the Department of Labor upon request.
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 certified payrolls
On contracts to which the labor standards provisions of the Davis-Bacon and Related Acts (DBRA) apply, each contractor is required by the DBRA to provide weekly to the contracting agency a weekly statement of the wages paid to each of its workers engaged in covered work, among other information required. Each certified payroll submitted must be accompanied by a Statement of Compliance using either page 2 of Form WH-347 Payroll (For Contractors Optional Use), or any form with identical wording, certifying compliance with applicable requirements. The statements must be signed by the contractor or by an authorized officer or employee of the contractor who supervises the payment of wages. The certified payrolls must be submitted to the contracting agency, if the agency is a party to the contract, or to the applicant, sponsor, owner, or other entity, as the case may be, if the agency is not a party to the contract. These certified payrolls must be submitted within seven days after the regular payment date of the payroll period. The certified payrolls may be submitted by any method permitted by the contracting agency, but must be signed with an original handwritten signature or, if required or permitted, a legally valid electronic signature.
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 worker(s) for the unpaid wages. Overtime wage violations may also result in the assessment of liquidated damages for each calendar day a worker 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 liabilities of the contractor for unpaid wages and liquidated damages. Any contractor from whom contract monies have been withheld 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 contracting 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. Court of Federal Claims for all final orders mandating a liability for withholding of liquidated damages.
Workers 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 workers accepted less than the required rate of wages or voluntarily returned wage payments to the contractor.
Contractors found to have committed violations of CWHSSA's overtime requirements may have their contracts terminated. Contractors found to have disregarded their obligations to workers or subcontractors may be debarred from receiving future contracts for 3 years.
Contractors may challenge the Wage and Hour Division's determinations of violations before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Contractors may appeal ALJ decisions and orders to the Administrative Review Board (ARB). ARB determinations on violations 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 (DBRA) 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. The overtime requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) frequently also apply to Davis-Bacon and Related Acts (DBRA) contracts. In addition to these federal labor standards, state overtime pay requirements may apply.
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 (CWHSSA).
Wage and Hour Division(https://www.dol.gov/whd/)
Tel: 1-866-4-US-WAGE (1-866-487-9243)*
*If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or have a speech disability, please dial 7-1-1 to access telecommunications relay services.
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.