The Denver Office of Human Resources rejects responsibility for how prevailing wage rates are determined, leaving some contract workers with stagnant pay and no options for appeal, according to a report by Auditor Timothy O’Brien and audit firm CliftonLarsonAllen.
“I’m disappointed in Human Resources’ unwillingness to take responsibility for finding solutions,” O’Brien said. “Overly narrow interpretation of the law leaves the workers who aren’t getting pay raises with nowhere to turn for help.”
The report asked Human Resources to assess whether it should be in charge of prevailing wage rates and whether other boards should have expanded duties to address concerns like stagnant pay and appeals.
Human Resources disagreed with both of these recommendations.
“Prevailing wage” is the minimum amount workers should be paid on Denver city projects for jobs including construction, maintenance and janitorial work. Denver’s current Prevailing Wage Ordinance does not allow appeals for rates set by the 1931 federal Davis-Bacon Act.
The auditor’s report found examples of city project workers who hadn’t received a pay increase in years.
“City ordinance relies on Davis-Bacon for most prevailing wage rates, however, this is an old system,” O’Brien said. “The city should have no problem assessing whether it is still serving today’s workforce or whether there should be room for a more updated and fair appeals process.”
The report recommended that rather than setting wages, the Office of Human Resources should focus on its internal goals to attract, develop and retain an “engaged and high performing workforce” in Denver.
The office disagreed with the recommendation, stating that its responsibilities don’t include determining which agency besides itself should be in control.
The office did agree to examine whether a third party should set wages not covered by Davis-Bacon and to use additional review procedures to ensure benefit rates used for setting prevailing wages are accurate.
“Every worker deserves fair and equitable pay, regardless of whether they are city employees or employees of city contractors,” O’Brien said. “The city needs to explore its options to ensure no worker is paid at stagnated or otherwise unfair rates.”
The full report is available at denverauditor.org.