The Davis-Bacon Act (DBA), Davis-Bacon Related Acts and the McNamara-O’Hara Service Contract Act (SCA) are all federal labor laws. They each set up prevailing wages and a variety of other requirements that all government contractors must follow. There are some key differences, however, in what these laws cover, including the type of project and classifications of work covered under each.

Staying compliant requires you to understand and follow the laws that govern your contract. The following details discuss what the laws are, what they cover and how they are different.

Davis-Bacon Act

The original Davis-Bacon Act and Davis-Bacon Related Acts are separate laws but are often collectively referred to simply as Davis-Bacon. You may also hear them called simply “prevailing wage laws” because they create the prevailing wages requirements for all eligible contracts.

Under these laws, federally funded or assisted contracts that total $2,000 and over for the construction, alteration, or repair (including painting and decorating) of public buildings or public works. The main difference between them is that DBA applies to work done on federal government and District of Columbia (D.C.) buildings and public property (such as national memorials or parks), while the DBRA applies to non-federal construction contracts that are funded by federal dollars.

The following are the “related acts” which are included under the DBRA umbrella:

  • National Housing Act
  • Housing Act of 1950
  • Federal Aid to Highway Acts
  • Federal Water Pollution Control Act
  • S. Housing Act of 1937

Some examples of DBA projects could include work performed directly for federal agencies such as the Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Defense or the Department of the Interior

DBRA contracts for state or local projects funded by federal grants, loans, loan guarantees, or insurance programs may be funded by additional bodies. For example, the Federal Highway Administration provides grants to states for the reconstruction of roads and bridges on federal-aid highways. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) finances the construction of low-income residences on housing authority projects. Other federal agencies which assist construction through grants, loans, loan guarantees and insurance include the Departments of Health and Human Services, Education, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

The McNamara-O’Hara Service Contract Act

The DBA and DBRA govern federal government sponsored contracts for construction, alteration, or repair of public property. The Service Contract Act (SCA, on the other hand, covers service-related work. This includes a large range of service jobs, including everything from programmers and accountants to clerks and janitors. The SCA applies to contractors and subcontractors that work on contracts in excess of $2,500.

Although the SCA covers different types of work, it is still governed in the same way. The DOL, Wage and Hour Division (WHD) receives and investigates complaints about potential violations. It also has similar reporting requirements. Companies must provide workers a notice that shows the wage and fringe benefits required by the project and to post a specific poster with employee rights under the act, just like under DBA and DBRA.

Learn more about DBA, DBRA and SCA in the following resources:

Davis-Bacon FAQ 
Common DBA mistakes and how to avoid them
Things you didn’t know about wage determinations

The material presented here is educational in nature and is not intended to be, nor should be relied upon, as legal or financial advice. Please consult with an attorney or financial professional for advice.

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