Monday, November 28, 2011

Prevailing wage applies to tree pruning, removal on state highways

In Reliable Tree Experts v. Baker (Cal.App. 1 Dist.), the Court has ruled that a private contractor providing tree pruning and removal for California Department of Transportation must follow California's Prevailing Wage Law.

California's Prevailing Wage Law can be found at Labor Code §§ 1720-18611.

Here, the contractor, working under contract with Caltrans for the first time, argued that it was not involved in "public works," for purposes of Labor Code § 1720, which defines public works as including construction, alteration, demolition, installation, or repair work done under contract and paid for in whole or in part out of public funds. The Court disagreed.

The Court also found that the contract involved "maintenance work" under Labor Code § 1771, though the contract was the contractor's first contract with Caltrans, it was a one-time contract between the contractor and Caltrans, and a great majority of the work under the contract involved tree removal. Tree work on Caltrans rights-of- way was routine, recurring, and usual work on those rights-of-way.

Interestingly, this case arose out of a $949,600 contract, but the appeal was from a judgment ordering Reliable Tree Experts to pay just $6,767.22. There is no doubt in my mind that the appeal cost the contractor way, way more than $6,767.22: a double loss for the employer in this case.

As always, a disclaimer - every situation is different, and you are advised to consult an attorney for advice specific to your situation. The information in this blog is intended as a service to clients and the community, and nothing in here is intended to create an attorney-client relationship or provide legal advice, nor is it advertising. Now, I'm off to prune some trees!

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