The Contract Work Hours and Safety Standards Act (CWHSSA) mandates all federal contractors to pay their employed laborers one and a half times the basic pay rate for every overtime hour worked. Overtime constitutes every hour worked over 40 hours per work week. This act applies to:

  • Federal service contracts
  • Federal construction contracts
  • Federally assisted construction contracts over $100,000

The purpose of the Contract Work Hours and Safety Standards Act is to hold employers liable for unpaid employee wages. A contractor who fails to comply with this regulation will also be liable under the False Claims Act.

The Contract Work Hours and Safety Standards Act Law also disallows unhygienic, high-risk, or unsafe working conditions on federal and federally funded and assisted construction projects. Employers are mandated by law to notify their staff of any dangers and risks in the workplace. They must describe the risks, the indicators of such risks and the steps to be taken to protect oneself. Contracts covered under these additional regulations include work financed partly or wholly by loans or grants from the U.S. or any agency.

Jurisdiction of the Act

The Act is enforceable on the following entities:

  • The United States of America (U.S.A)
  • Any agency or instrumentality of the U.S.A
  • Any territory of the U.S.A
  • The District of Columbia.

All contracts in these territories are covered except the following:

  • Air, land (road and rail) or water transportation.
  • Intelligence transmission
  • Purchase of supplies, materials, or articles ordinarily available in the "open market"
  • Work required to be done according to provisions of the Walsh-Healey Public Contracts Act (PCA).

Enforcement of the Act

The Wage and Hour Division (WHD) of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is the body responsible for implementing the compensation provisions of this Act, while the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is responsible for implementing the safety and health provisions of this Act.

A willful infringement of this regulation is a misdemeanor offense, punishable by a maximum fine of $1,000 or a maximum prison sentence of 6 months. Both punishments may be exacted together. An infraction of the overtime wage regulation may result in the evaluation of liquidated damages for $10 per calendar day an employee worked more than a 40-hour workweek without overtime compensation.

Employees have the right to take action against a contractor and its sponsors if the funds withheld are inadequate to repay the wages owed. It is of no consequence if the laborers agreed to receive less than the wages owed or offered to refund any payments.

Contractors or subcontractors found to have willfully broken the overtime regulation may have their contracts discontinued and may no longer be eligible to receive contracts for up to three years in the future.

Litigation and Prosecution

Cases of violation can be decided before a judge in an administrative court. Heads of contracting agencies have the power to review any administrative decisions. If the contractor is displeased with the decision of the administrative court, specifically if the decision results in disqualification or payment of owed wages, an appeal can be made to the Administrative Review Board.

Also, heads of contracting agencies have the power to issue final orders. Contractors unhappy with any withheld damages may appeal to these agency heads. If the damages awarded are found to be incorrect, the head of the contracting agency may suggest a fair adjustment to the Labor Secretary. This is also valid in a situation where the violation was made while exercising due care. In both cases, the contractor may file a liability claim in U.S Claims Court.

The Federal Courts make the final decisions in these cases regarding the appeal or enforcement of a prior judgment.


You can get more information about the Contract Work Hours and Safety Standards Act (CWHSSA), including copies of explanatory brochures, by contacting your local U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour District Office. The Department of Labor also documents its regulations with regard to the Contract Work Hours and Safety Standards Act. To find the complete text of the law, visit the website of the Department of Labor for more information.

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