Roadway Excavation Quality Assurance Act

Diana Plue, Esq., Sheats & Bailey, PLLC

New York State has once again passed new legislation that will affect contractors and their bottom line. The state has passed new legislation known as “The Roadway Quality Assurance Act” that amends Labor Law §220 and adds a new section, Labor Law §224-f. The purpose of this act is to ensure that when a private utility company hires contractors or subcontractors to perform work that requires a permit for the excavation, opening or use of a public street those workers are paid prevailing wages. 

The Roadway Quality Assurance Act mandates that contractors and subcontractors to a utility company, as defined under Public Service Law §2 (23), pay prevailing wages to workers performing work on a “covered excavation project.” Utility Company is defined as individuals or corporations that operate an agency or agencies for public service and are subject to the jurisdiction, supervision, and regulations prescribed in the Public Service Law. 

A covered excavation project means a construction project where a permit is issued by the state, a county or a municipality to a contractor or subcontractor of a utility company to use, excavate, or open a street. The statute does not define “use” or provide any guidance on what “use of a street means, but we believe it will be liberally construed. The prevailing rate to be paid is the prevailing rate set for the trade or occupation performing the work in the locality where the covered excavation project is situated. 

Covered excavation projects are not considered public works but are subject to the requirements of: (a) Labor Law §220, which limits a legal work day to 8 hours and requires overtime for all hours worked over 8 hours a day, requires payment of prevailing wage and certified payroll be maintained and also sets out consequences for failure to pay prevailing wage; (b) Labor Law §220-a, which requires subcontractors upon receipt from the contractor or subcontractor above them of the schedule of prevailing wages to review such schedule and submit a verified statement to the above entity that the schedule was reviewed and the subcontractor will pay the applicable prevailing wage and also requires contractors to certify to the owner that all certified payroll has been received from subcontractors and the amount, if any, that is known to be owed to laborers; (c) Labor Law §220-b, which addresses the withholding of money to contractors for the benefits of laborers who were not paid and addresses penalties contractors and subcontractors may be assessed for failure to pay prevailing wages; (d) Labor Law § 223, which makes a contractor responsible for a subcontractor’s failure to pay prevailing wage; (e) Labor Law §224-b, which allows the fiscal officer to issue a stop work order to any contractor or subcontractor not in compliance with Labor Law section 220, 220-a, 220-b and 224-f and; (f) Labor Law §227, which discusses the procedure to review an order by the fiscal officer pertaining to hours of labor or prevailing wage rates under Labor Law §220. 

Utility company contractors and subcontractors as a condition to the issuance of a permit to use, excavate or open a street on a covered excavation project must file with the department of jurisdiction an agreement confirming that the payment of prevailing wages to workers on the project has been contractually mandated. Labor Law §224-f, defines Department of Jurisdiction as “the state, board or officer in the state, or municipal corporation or commission or board appointed pursuant to law, whose duty it is to issue a permit to a utility company, or its contractors or subcontractors, for a covered excavation project.” 

The New York State Department of Labor has indicated this prevailing wage will be enforced like any other prevailing wage in New York state. If an employee is not being paid a prevailing wage for their occupation, they can file a complaint with the Bureau of Public Work. Also, violations of this new act (i.e., Labor Law §224-f) will be subject to determinations and orders pursuant to Labor Law §220-b.

This Act was signed into law on Aug. 16, 2023. Despite aspects of the law being unclear and there being no guidance on its application, the law will go into effect on Sept. 15, 2023, and will apply to all contracts for construction and permits issued on a covered excavation project on or after its effective date. 

For more information, contact Sheats & Bailey, PLLC; a law firm dedicated to serving the construction industry. Tel: (315) 676-7314 

The information provided in this article is not intended to serve as specific legal advice for any particular situation. Competent legal and experienced counsel should be consulted.