United States: DOL Publishes Notice on New Prevailing Wage Process
The Department of Labor (DOL) is announcing today in the Federal Register that it is opening its National Prevailing Wage and Helpdesk Center (NPWHC) in Washington, DC and will begin centralized processing of prevailing wage determinations on January 1, 2010. The processing of prevailing wage determinations for the permanent labor certification program and for the H-1B, H-1B1 (Chile/Singapore), H-1C, H-2B and E-3 nonimmigrant programs will be included in the January transition to the NPWHC.
Under the new, centralized process, prevailing wage requests will be submitted directly to the DOL national center rather than to the State Workforce Agencies (SWAs). Earlier this year, DOL moved prevailing wage determinations for the H-2B and H-1C nonimmigrant programs at the National Processing Center in Chicago and these cases should be submitted to the NPWHC starting on January 1.
The New Process. The notice announcing the change outlines the new process, but does not make any substantive changes to how prevailing wages are determined. Employers will still be able to use independent authoritative wage sources and supplemental wage information, provided such information qualifies under existing rules. Requests for redetermination will be handled by NPWHC, and challenges will continue to be handled by the Office of Foreign Labor Certification with the option of appeal to the Board of Alien Labor Certification Appeals.
The Transition. The SWAs are scheduled to continue to accept and process prevailing wage requests submitted prior to January 1, 2010. There are no plans to ship cases started at the SWAs to the national center at any point. Cases started at the SWAs prior to the first of the year should remain with the SWAs. There will be a 15 day grace period of sorts, through January 15, where cases submitted to the SWAs will be forwarded to the NPWHC. After that, cases will be rejected if sent to the SWAs.
What this Means to Employers. Employers should be aware that the NPWHC may take a different approach than some SWAs to making prevailing wage determinations and that processing times may increase from the current processing times at some SWAs. As with any new program, there may be some initial inconsistency, but DOL anticipates that centralization should result in more consistent prevailing wage determinations over time, particularly with regard to the acceptance of independent authoritative wage sources and the assignment of occupational categories and wage levels.
A copy of the notice is available by clicking here.