Preavailing Wage Workers Must be Reimbursed for Work-related Lodging Away from Home
The US Department of Labor’s Administrative Review Board (ARB) recently released a decision regarding Weeks Marine’s payment of employee lodging costs when working away from home. The ARB remanded the case to the Administrative Law Judge for further consideration but in doing so it made clear that when employees are working away from home they must be reimbursed their actual lodging costs.
Weeks Marine was awarded a contract for maintenance, dredging, and beach replenishment of Fire Island Inlet in New York. The contract was covered by the Davis-Bacon Act and employees working on the contract would be lodging away from home. Employees received a $35 per diem subsistence allowance but this did not cover the cost of lodging.
The ARB explained that lodging at Fire Island was primarily for the benefit and convenience of the employer and employees were entitled to their actual costs.
While this decision is not inconsistent with the Field Operations Handbook (FOH) which addresses lodging and transportation costs at 15f19, “Where an employer sends employees who are regularly employed in their home community away from home …… (costs are) properly reimbursable by the employer and incurred for its benefit.”
The ARB did not rely on the FOH and stated, “The Field Handbook merely provides ‘guidance’ to which the ARB and WAB have looked for ‘interpretive assistance’.” While DOL’s intent has been known, the Weeks Marine decision now makes a contractor’s responsibility clear when employees must travel from their homes.
While this is not a legal opinion, it should serve as a reminder to contractors as to their obligations when employees must travel.
A copy of the decision can found at http://www.oalj.dol.gov/PUBLIC/ARB/DECISIONS/ARB_DECISIONS/DBA/12_093.DBAP.PDF