“[P]erceiv[ing] tension between the general purposes of [California’s] prevailing wage law and courts’ duty to interpret the law liberally, on the one hand, and extra-textual administrative guidance, on the other hand,” the Ninth Circuit this week asked the Supreme Court to determine whether that law applies to certain workers on part of a publicly funded safety project for commuter trains.  The law, which sets a wages floor for “all workers employed on public works,” is at issue in a class action — Busker v. Wabtec Corp.

The Ninth Circuit’s question is:

Whether work installing electrical equipment on locomotives and rail cars (i.e., the “onboard work” for Metrolink’s PTC project) falls within the definition of “public works” under California Labor Code § 1720(a)(1) either (a) as constituting “construction” or “installation” under the statute or (b) as being integral to other work performed for the PTC project on the wayside (i.e., the “field installation work”).

The Supreme Court docketed the case yesterday.  The court should let the Ninth Circuit know by the beginning of November — give or take — whether it will answer the question.  It probably will.