Illinois' Prevailing Wage Act Part 1 - What Is It and When Does It Apply?

Illinois' Prevailing Wage Act, 820 ILCS 130/0.01, et. seq, has been around for a long time but was revamped in the past few years, and the changes are significant.  The Act requires that "prevailing wage," as determined for similar work for the county or locality in which the work is to be performed, be paid to all "laborers, mechanics and other workers" employed in any "public works," and includes hourly cash wages plus fringe benefits for training and apprenticeship programs, health and welfare, insurance, vacations, and pensions.  "Works" is essentially construction work, but "construction" is defined to include maintenance, repairs, and equipment assembly and disassembly.  "Public" works are defined to include any "public body," including State agencies, municipalities, public districts, school districts, "and every other political subdivision...," and also to include work done by a private entity pursuant to a contract with a "public body" or receiving public financing pursuant to various State statutes.

To summarize, the Act requires Public Bodies or businesses/persons performing Public Works pay their employees working on such Public Works at least Prevailing Wage, as determined for the locality in which the work is being performed.  The Illinois Department of Labor is the administrative body charged with enforcing the Act, and it maintains prevailing wage rates by county on its website.  Here are the posted rates for February 2011.  Here are their Frequently Asked Questions about the Act, which presents first a very good summary of the Act, then frequently asked questions separated by public entity, private contractor, and employee questions.

Since Public Works includes Construction done pursuant to any contract with a Public Body and also any Construction funded even in part by public funds, the reach of the Act is very broad, and the Act contains penalties for both Public Bodies and private contractors/businesses who fail to comply with the Act's requirements.  In upcoming posts in this series, we will review the Act  from the Public Body and the Private Contractor perspectives and highlight key provisions for each.  If you have a question about whether particular work or a contract is governed by the Act, you can ask the public body involved, call the Illinois Department of Labor, or consult an Illinois attorney.

Nate Hinch is an attorney and partner at the law firm of Mueller, Reece & Hinch, LLC.  He has offices at 404 N. Hershey Road, Suite C, Bloomington, IL 61704, and 809 Detweiller Drive, Peoria, IL 61615, and can be reached by phone at (309) 827-4055 and email at

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