Legal Understanding

This course deals with several areas of a topic that sometimes is overlooked by public works supervisors, namely knowledge of the law. By its very nature, public works fundamentally involves decision-making impacting employee safety and health, protecting the environment, and stewardship of public resources. While a comprehensive understanding of the law in any of these areas is impractical for public works leaders, a working understanding of issues surrounding local, state, and federal regulations is critical to avoid legal liabilities and to promote successful operations.

Understanding the legal aspects of public works is perhaps best characterized as engaging in informed risk management, i.e., understanding the legal consequences impacting public works decisions in addition to the obvious engineering-related consequences on schedules, costs and project quality. Put simply, competent public works leadership must understand the basics of both the natural laws of physics and the social laws made by the public we serve. Although there can be significant differences between local and state laws, our attention in these course materials will be focused on both. Remember that there is no general substitute for competent local legal advice. When in doubt, engage legal counsel early, not late!

Skills are developed by knowing:

  • When significant legal consequences exist due to a decision or action
  • The source of the law or regulation that affects the same
  • Adequate details about the situation/problem to provide a complete picture to any adviser
  • Where (or from whom) competent advice may be requested and obtained

Once completed, participants should be able to:

  • Better understand the collective bargaining process of negotiations
  • Recognize a supervisor's administrative duties and the operational impacts of a labor contract.
  • Understand the relevance of contract and 28E agreements
  • Recognize several federal laws with local impacts in areas of safety, environmental, & ADA

Key Concepts:

  • Supervisory input into negotiations and responsibility for administration of labor contracts
  • Legal responsibilities created by construction, maintenance and 28E contracts
  • Interaction of State and local agencies to meet legal requirements of federal laws
  • Federal/State MUTCD is the signing/marking standard for all agencies

Offering format

On-line, independent study



Offering level (Basic, Intermediate, or Advanced)


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