skip navigational linksDOL Seal - Link to DOL Home Page
Photos representing the workforce - Digital Imagery© copyright 2001 PhotoDisc, Inc.
November 4, 2008    DOL Home > Compliance Assistance > Employment Law Guide > Hours & Safety Standards in Construction Contracts

Employment Law Guide

--> Chapter: Hours and Safety Standards in Construction Contracts

Return to Table of Contents

Related Information

Compliance Assistance By Law

DOL Agency Assistance

Updated: September 2005

Employment Law Guide

Contract Work Hours and Safety Standards Act (CWHSSA)
40 USC §327 et seq.; 29 CFR Part 5)

Who is Covered

The Contract Work Hours and Safety Standards Act (CWHSSA) applies to contractors and subcontractors with federal service contracts and federally funded and assisted construction contracts over $100,000. Covered contracts include those entered into by the U.S., any agency or instrumentality of the U.S., any territory of the U.S., or the District of Columbia.

The Act also extends to federally assisted construction contracts subject to Davis-Bacon Act 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 this Act. 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 according to provisions of the Walsh-Healey Public Contracts Act; and

  • Contracts administratively exempted by the Secretary of Labor in special circumstances because of the public interest or to avoid serious impairment of government business.

Basic Provisions/Requirements

The Act requires contractors and subcontractors with covered contracts to pay laborers and mechanics employed in the performance of the contracts one and one-half times their basic rate of pay for all hours worked over 40 in a workweek.

Employee Rights

The CWHSSA provides most workers on federal contracts the right to receive time and one-half for overtime hours worked on such contracts. The Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor’s Employment Standards Administration accepts complaints of alleged CWHSSA wage violations.

Compliance Assistance Available

The Wage and Hour Division of the Employment Standards Administration enforces the compensation requirements of this Act. More detailed information, including copies of explanatory brochures and regulatory and interpretative materials, may be obtained by contacting the Wage and Hour Division's local offices. Compliance assistance information may also be obtained on the Wage and Hour Division's Web site or by contacting the Wage and Hour Division help line at 1-866-4USWAGE.


Contractors or subcontractors who violate this Act may be subject to fines, imprisonment, or both. Intentional violations of this Act are misdemeanors and may be punished by a fine not to exceed $1,000 or by imprisonment for not more than six months, or both. Overtime wage violations may result in the assessment of liquidated damages in the sum of $10 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 also be withheld in sums necessary to satisfy the liability for unpaid wages and 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 the 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 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. Final determinations on violations and debarment may be appealed to and are enforceable through the federal courts.

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 Act while exercising due care, the agency head may recommend appropriate adjustments in the liquidated damages to the Secretary of Labor. 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.

Relation to State, Local, and Other Federal Laws

The provisions of this Act 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.

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 or by calling our Toll-Free Help Line at 1-866-4-USA-DOL (1-866-487-2365).

Table of Contents

Phone Numbers