Ask the Attorney – Wage and Hour Edition, Vol. 5

I am an electrician who works for a small company that is not a union shop. We landed a great job recently, on the new waste-water treatment plant in South Bend, IN. I make $12 an hour, and the plumber working on the same component I am assigned to wire is making $28 and benefits. He said he usually makes $12 an hour, too, but his employer has to pay the higher rate because this is a publicly funded project. When I asked my boss about it, he said that rate difference doesn’t apply to electricians, just to the plumbers because they’re union. The plumber told me his shop isn’t a union shop. I am confused – why would plumbers make more money on the job but not me? Confused and poor – Alan M.

Dear Alan,
Sounds like your employer is lying to you. Generally speaking, publicly funded construction projects in Indiana (and Ohio) are subject to different rates of pay for workers who are doing the building or renovating, provided the project is big enough. In Indiana, it’s called the “common construction wage,” in Ohio it’s called the “prevailing wage.” If the plumber rate is higher than the usual rate on the job, the rate for electricians should be higher, too. Your employer probably bid the job at the higher pay rate and is pocketing the money he committed to South Bend to pay you on the job. You can take legal action to get the higher rate, even if the job ends before you know you were underpaid. Call us to talk more about your situation.