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2 min read

Barron vs. Tridair Helicopters: Overtime and Holiday Pay under the SCA

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Richard and Linda Barron found themselves in a lawsuit against Tridair Helicopters, Inc. They alleged violations of the Service Contract Act (SCA), claiming that their employer had failed to provide holiday pay and proper compensation for overtime work. Here we examine the case's progression through the district court's dismissal and subsequent appeals court's affirmation, shedding light on the key legal arguments and judicial reasoning involved.


Within the professional realm, the Davis-Bacon Act and the Service Contract Act both play pivotal roles in protecting employees' rights, particularly concerning wages and working conditions. The Davis-Bacon Act mandated that workers employed in federal construction projects received prevailing wages, while the SCA established similar standards for employees on government service contracts. 

The Barrons filed suit against Tridair Helicopters, Inc., Robert Reich (the Department of Labor Secretary at the time), and Robert Kelley. They accused their employer of breaching the SCA by withholding holiday pay and overtime wages and sought legal redress in the district court. However, their case was dismissed due to a failure to state a claim.

The Court of Appeals Affirms

Undeterred by the district court's dismissal, the Barrons decided to take their case to the appellate level, hoping for a more favorable outcome. However, their hopes were dashed when the court of appeals sided with the lower court's decision. The ruling of the appeals court centered around the distinction between the discretionary and ministerial duties of the Secretary of Labor and its implications in this case.

To understand this ruling, it's important to grasp the difference between discretionary and ministerial duties. Discretionary duties refer to actions or decisions that are left to the judgment and discretion of the responsible party. On the other hand, ministerial duties are those that require strict adherence to established procedures or rules, leaving no room for discretion. In this case, the appeals court determined that the Secretary of Labor had discretionary authority in pursuing additional compensation on behalf of the Barrons. Therefore, the court concluded that a writ of mandamus, which is a court order compelling action, was not appropriate since the duty in question was discretionary.

The court of appeals also addressed the Barrons' procedural argument, which claimed that the district court had made an error by considering materials beyond the pleadings. However, the appellate court dismissed this argument, asserting that the lower court had not mishandled the case in any way.

The Continuing Legal Battle

Undeterred by the appeals court's decision, the Barrons persisted. Their appeal aimed to challenge the district court's dismissal and sought to hold Robert Reich, the Department of Labor, and Robert Kelley accountable for the alleged SCA violations. The central contention remained that the defendants had failed to provide holiday pay and overtime wages at the appropriate rate as stipulated under the SCA.

Through their legal representation, the Barrons argued that the defendants' actions deviated from the standards set forth by the SCA. They emphasized the importance of upholding employees' rights by ensuring proper remuneration for their work.

The case's progression through the district court's dismissal and subsequent appeals court's affirmation underscored the challenges faced by employees seeking fair compensation and the importance of informed legal representation. Moving forward, the final outcome of this case contributes to the ongoing dialogue surrounding workers' rights and the enforcement of labor standards.