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Illinois Supreme Court Interprets Section 11 of the Prevailing Wage Act

Illinois Supreme Court Interprets Section 11 of the Prevailing Wage Act

On May 20, 2021, the Illinois Supreme Court issued a decision overruling the Appellate Court's decision holding that a municipality's failure to stipulate in its contract that the Illinois Prevailing Wage Act applied had no effect on the plaintiffs' right to bring a cause of action under the Act.

In Valerio v. Moore Landscapes, 12 landscape laborers alleged that Moore Landscapes hired them as tree planters on a project for the Chicago Park District, for which they were paid $18 per hour instead of the prevailing wage rate of $41.20 per hour. Moore Landscapes had three contracts with the Chicago Park District that all failed to stipulate the prevailing wage rate.

The Prevailing Wage Act provides that any "laborers, mechanics and other workers employed in any public works" shall be paid "a wage of no less than the general prevailing hourly rate as paid for work of similar character in the locality; in which the work is performed." Section 11 of the Act further provides that "any laborer, worker or mechanic employed by the contractor or by any subcontractor under him who is paid for his services in a sum less than the stipulated rates for work done under such contract, shall have a right of action." (emphasis added).

The Appellate Court stated that it could not uphold the trial court's dismissal of the laborer's complaint based on the Park District's failure to stipulate a rate of payment because of the unambiguous language of Section 11. However, the Illinois Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's decision, providing that the plaintiffs' action seeking damages pursuant to section 11 must fail because both the Park District and Moore Landscapes failed to stipulate the rates for work done under the contracts.

As a result, the Illinois Supreme Court has found that if a public body employer fails to stipulate the prevailing wage rate within the contract, the employee does not have a cause of action for the difference between the amount paid and the prevailing rates.

If you would like guidance in dealing with a Prevailing Wage Act provision in your employment contracts, please contact the Employment attorneys of Bozeman, Neighbour, Patton & Noe, LLP.