In the last couple of years, numerous oilfield overtime lawsuits exposed companies in the oil and gas industry for misclassifying workers as independent contractors. These energy companies have recently turned to using this misclassification tactic as a means to reduce payroll costs at the employees’ expense. The misclassified employees often work well over 40 hours per week and receive no overtime pay. This is especially true when employees work for several weeks straight and anywhere from 10 to 12 hours per day. Under federal law, the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), employees must be paid the minimum wage and overtime pay when working over 40 hours in a week.
Some common job titles in the industry that are affected by misclassification often include:
- Field Engineers/Operators/ Specialists
- Flowback Operators
- “Measurement While Drilling” Employees
- Pipeline Inspectors
- Well Site Managers
- Flow Testers
- Tool Pushers
- Deck Hands
- Wireline Supervisors
- Rig Welders/ Clerks
- Base Operator
Unfortunately, these workers have all the job duties and restrictions of an employee without any of the benefits. Even though companies may pay an independent contractor a flat rate salary or day rate under certain circumstances, often times, these misclassified workers cannot determine their own work schedules or set their own rates of pay like an independent contractor should be able to do. Instead, they are usually provided with all necessary equipment and uniforms to complete jobs and are required to follow instructions, processes, and policies regarding how to complete their work just like a regular employee, who must receive overtime pay.
This past year alone, several energy companies, such as Chevron Corp., J & A Services LLC, Honghua America LLC, and Whiting Petroleum, were sued for misclassifying their employees as independent contractors. All of these cases have had favorable results for wronged employees with the courts frequently siding with workers. For example, a court recently certified one of the many oilfield overtime lawsuits as a class as well as awarded 71 workers in another case $2,000,000 in back overtime pay.
The misclassification of independent contractors is a common tactic used by companies to possibly willfully cut costs and avoid paying overtime. Fitapelli & Schaffer, LLP consistently fights for the rights of workers like those in the oil and gas industry who often work tirelessly consecutive weeks in a row. If you or someone you know working in the oil and gas industry is unsure about being paid properly for hours worked, please do not hesitate to call our firm for a free phone consultation at (212) 300-0375. Fitapelli & Schaffer has notable experience successfully recovering unpaid in oilfield overtime lawsuits. For more information about our practice please visit our website.