Employment Law Guide
Chapter: Hours and Safety Standards in Construction Contracts
Updated: September 2005
Contract Work Hours and Safety Standards Act (CWHSSA)
USC §327 et seq.; 29 CFR Part 5)
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
- 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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
www.dol.gov/compliance or by calling our Toll-Free
Help Line at 1-866-4-USA-DOL (1-866-487-2365).