Computation is Key: Overtime Calculations on Public Works Projects Under Federal and Washington State Law

By Whitny L. Norton

The federal Department of Labor and the Washington Department of Labor and Industries investigate and fine employers for failing to properly calculate overtime wages. When an employee works over 40 hours in a workweek, and in some cases, more than 8 hours in a day, the employee is entitled to overtime wages. 

What is the appropriate wage rate for construction employees who work overtime hours on both private and public works projects during the same workweek?

When an employee works on both a private construction project and a public works project in the same workweek and that employee works over forty combined hours, the employee is entitled to overtime. To determine the rate of overtime, use a weighted average. The total earnings for that workweek are computed, including earnings at all wage rates, then the total earnings for the workweek are divided by the number of hours worked at all jobs during that workweek. On a federal project, an example of how the hours are calculated follows: 

Regular Rate Calculation:

10 x $15.00 = $150.00
40 x $20.00 = $800.00

Total wages for workweek: $950.00
Total hours for workweek: 50

$950/50 = $19.00 regular rate

Overtime Calculation:

Overtime hours: 10
Regular rate: $19.00

10 x $19.00 = $190.00
$190.00 x .5 = $95.00

Additional overtime pay: $95.00

Under federal law, each hour of overtime work performed on a federal public works project must be paid at the Davis-Bacon rate. Overtime hours for work performed on private projects is calculated using the regular rate.

However, in Washington, as set forth below, when an employee works over eight hours in a single workday and the employer and employee do not have an agreement for the employee to work 4-tens, the calculation would be made as follows: 

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Straight time total earnings: $1,847.84/54.75 (total hours worked) = $33.75 weighted average hourly rate

Weighted average regular hourly rate: $33.75/2 (1/2 the regular hourly rate) = $16.88 overtime rate for hours in excess of 40 

Weekly hours in excess of 40: 14.75 – 7.25 (premium pay hours calculated separately) = 7.50 over 40 overtime hours

Over 40 overtime hours: 7.50 x $16.88 (OT rate = ½ the regular hourly rate) = $126.60 overtime total due for hours in excess of 40 for the workweek

Amount due for workweek:            $1,847.84    Straight time earnings total
                                                         $   126.60    Overtime total for hours in excess of 40 for the                                                                                   workweek
                                                          $   189.88    Over 8 in a day premium pay total
                                                          $2,164.32    TOTAL DUE FOR WORKWEEK

Agreements Regarding Overtime

Federal law allows an employer and employee to enter into an agreement prior to performance of the work for computation of overtime based on one and one-half times the hourly rate in effect when the overtime work is performed so long as the agreement is entered into prior to performance of the work. The employer must keep detailed records showing when the overtime work was performed and how the overtime pay was calculated.

Eight-Hour Workday

In Washington, the workday for public works projects is 8 hours. If an employee works more than 8 hours on a public works project, that employee is entitled to overtime. However, an employer and employee may enter into an agreement, prior to performance of the work, for a 10-hour workday so long as the employee agreement is for no more than 4 10-hour workdays in a single workweek.

Neither the Davis-Bacon Act nor the Contract Work Hours and Safety Standards Act have a similar limitation. On applicable federal public works projects, employees must be paid overtime for hours worked in excess of forty in a given workweek.

If you have questions regarding wage rate calculations, agreements regarding overtime, or any other construction or employment related issues, contact the knowledgeable and experienced attorneys at Piskel Yahne Kovarik, PLLC, at (509) 321-5930.

The foregoing information regarding wage and overtime calculations on public works projects under federal and Washington state law is current as of December 11, 2015.