This is the kind of complex labor law question that prompts the Second Circuit to refer the issues to the State Court of Appeals for a definitive ruling interpreting state law. The issue is whether employee contracts committing parties to pay prevailing waves under a provision of the State Labor Law must specify what particular work the prevailing wages will be paid for.
The case is Ramos v. SimplexGrinnell LP, decided on December 4. The case was argued in September 2013, but this trick question needed clarification from the New York Court of Appeals, which issued a ruling in October 2014.
Plaintiffs did testing and inspection work. They sued because they did not receive prevailing wages for that work, despite the contract to do so. Again, what was the scope of that contract? With guidance from the State Court of Appeals, the Second Circuit (Calabresi, Livingston and Chin) says that, since plaintiffs were "laborers, workmen or mechanics" under state Labor Law, and since the State Department of Labor interprets the statute to mean that testing and inspection falls within that statutory language, plaintiffs may recover the prevailing wages that were denied to them.
The case is remanded to the district court to calculate damages. Plaintiffs argue that they are entitled to damages right now and that remand is not necessary. Not so fast, the Second Circuit says, because the employer challenges the conclusions reached by plaintiff's expert report on how many hours they spent on testing and inspection work as compared with other work.