If you are hired to perform a task on a public works project, California law mandates that your employer pay you the prevailing wages for your craft. Because public works projects are funded by taxpayers and controlled by the government, there is no reason why an employer should not adequately pay their workers. In fact, if an employer fails to pay you the prevailing wages for your work, it is a violation of your rights as an employee.

Understanding the current prevailing wage rates for your career is essential to ensuring that you are paid properly. Therefore, it is useful to frequently check California’s prevailing wages to learn what you should be paid on a publicly funded project.

What Are the Current Prevailing Wage Rates in California as of 2024?

California’s prevailing wage rates are determined by the state’s Department of Industrial Relations. Each rate varies depending on the job type and location of the project. They are also subject to change whenever the department’s director sees fit. Aside from the additional benefits that an employee may receive, current prevailing wage rates for skilled workers in San Diego include:

  • Bricklayer: $44.65 per hour
  • Carpet Layer: $36.77 per hour
  • Drywall Finisher: $15.50 per hour
  • Chief Field Surveyor: $59.51 per hour
  • Industrial Painter: $39.07 per hour
  • Graffiti Removers: $25.00 per hour
  • Plasterer: $40.43 per hour
  • General Plumber: $53.51 per hour
  • Interior Electrician: $51.20 per hour
  • Traffic Signal/Street Light Electrician: $38.67 per hour
  • Roofer: $39.80 per hour
  • Tile Layer: $46.03 per hour

What Are Prevailing Wage Rates Based On?

The Director of the Department of Industrial Relations must consider many elements when determining the prevailing wages for each craft. Generally, the four factors that have the greatest influence on hourly rates for prevailing wages are:

  1. The type of job being performed
  2. The county that the project is located in
  3. How long the employee was hired to work on the project
  4. Collective bargaining agreements

In addition to the basic hourly rate that the Department of Industrial Relations assigns, an employee may also earn other benefits that can increase their pay. This is because certain contracts can include pension, health, or holiday benefits in your hourly pay. For example, a painter’s basic prevailing wage starts at $17.85 an hour. However, if an employer includes health and welfare benefits or pension benefits, they may see their hourly wage rise to $29.00+.

When Are Prevailing Wages Used?

Prevailing wages are not the same as the state’s minimum wage. While minimum wage applies to all nonexempt employees who take on an hourly position, prevailing wages are only applicable when trade workers are hired to assist in the construction of a public works project. If your employer does not pay you the set prevailing wage for your craft, you may file an unpaid wage claim against them in California. If your claim is successful, you can earn back the funds you were deprived of and potential compensation for your losses.

Common examples of public work projects include:

  • Highway construction
  • Construction of a government building
  • Road maintenance
  • Electrical line maintenance
  • Government and community building maintenance or renovation


Q: How Do You Find the Prevailing Wages for Your Project?

A: Prevailing wages vary depending on the job being performed and the county that the employee is working in. To find the prevailing wages for your specific craft, you’ll need to visit the Department of Industrial Relations website. You will have to input your specific county, which will then give you the current prevailing wages for trades in that area in 2024. Note that there are multiple wages that may be listed. These are dependent on the contract that you form with your employer.

Q: What Can I Do If My Employer Isn’t Paying Me Prevailing Wages?

A: If you are contracted to assist on a public works project and are not receiving prevailing wages, this is a violation of both the state’s prevailing wage law and basic employment laws. This means that you can file an unpaid wage claim against your employer to hold them liable for the money you did not receive. If you need assistance holding your employer accountable in an unpaid prevailing wage case, discuss your needs with a San Diego, CA, Prevailing Wage Attorney.

Q: Do Prevailing Wage Rates Change in California?

A: Many workers become worried when they notice that prevailing wage rates have an “expiration date.” However, this expiration date is simply used to indicate that the rates are not permanent and are subject to change. The Director of California’s Department of Industrial Relations generally updates prevailing wages yearly, so it’s important to keep yourself updated with the current rates.

Q: What Are Fringe Benefits in Prevailing Wage Determinations?

A: Fringe benefits include the large list of additional benefits that employers generally give to their employees. The most well-known fringe benefits include health and medical assistance, pension payments, and vacation time or pay. When an individual is being paid prevailing wages, all their fringe benefits are added to their hourly pay.

Q: What Is Considered a Residential Project?

A: Some residential projects are partially funded or fully funded by the public. When this occurs, the workers involved must still be paid prevailing wages because it is a public works project. Residential projects can include federally funded affordable housing projects and the building of community centers and assistance programs.

San Diego Employment Lawyers Who Are Ready to Listen

Our team knows just how hard you’ve worked in your career to get where you are today. No matter what kind of project you were hired to work on, you deserve to be paid adequately. At Ferraro Vega San Diego Employment Lawyers, we have helped trade workers from around California receive the payments that they’re entitled to. Whether you’re in a dispute over the terms of a potential public works project or you just recently found out you were not given prevailing wages, do not wait to retain one of our employment attorneys.

Contact Ferraro Vega San Diego Employment Lawyers to discuss your needs with professionals who can help.

Avatar photo

About The Author

Nicholas J. Ferraro

Nicholas J. Ferraro is a skilled labor and employment lawyer and the founder of Ferraro Vega Employment Lawyers, Inc. Based in San Diego, he focuses on representing employees in class action and collective litigation cases. Education: Mr. Ferraro attended the University of San Diego School of Law, where he was a member of the San Diego Law Review. Experience: Over a decade of legal practice, representing more than 100,000 employees. Court Admissions: Mr. Ferraro represents his clients throughout the State of California and the State of Washington. He is a member of the State Bar of California. Community Involvement: Active member of the California Employment Lawyers Association and the San Diego County Bar Association.