The Marcellus Shale is a sedimentary rock deposit buried thousands of feet beneath the earth’s surface. It stretches from upstate New York south through Pennsylvania to West Virginia and to parts of Ohio. Named after a town in upstate New York, the rock itself is millions of years old, formed from mud and organic material. The oil and natural gas created over millions of years as a byproduct of decomposition is trapped in tiny spaces and fissures within the rock. Domestically produced natural shale gas is a clean-burning energy resource drilled using 21st century vertical or horizontal technologies.
The increase of natural gas usage has had economic benefits across the nation through more affordable energy prices and robust economic activity and created thousands of jobs. According to a recent economic analysis, the natural gas industry invested more than $12 billion in Pennsylvania in 2011 while supporting more than 200,000 jobs. In Ohio alone, fracking and its oil drilling and natural gas industries, have supported more than 200,000 jobs, and the state contributed 4.7 percent to the total U.S. energy manufacturing GDP in 2012.
Individuals working for oil and gas companies encounter different issues related to how they are paid. First, individuals employed by oil and gas companies, especially those who work in the field, will be classified as an independent contractor rather than an employee. This means that the company does not take tax withholdings from your pay and tries to avoid many laws meant to benefit employees. Specifically, oil and gas companies will misclassify individuals as independent contractors to avoid paying overtime pay. If you work for an oil and gas company and the company sets your schedule and controls different aspects of your employment (like where to be, when to be there, how long you have to be there, and supervise what you are doing when you are there) then you are likely an employee of the company, not an independent contractor, and should be paid overtime pay when you work over forty hours in a workweek.
Even when oil and gas companies classify individuals as employees, the company will still try to avoid paying overtime pay. Instead, employees will be paid a flat rate, or a day rate for all hours worked.
This is especially true when employees work for several weeks straight and anywhere from 10 to 12 hours per day. Under federal law, employees cannot be paid a day rate and have to be paid by the hour for all hours work. Additionally, employees are required to be paid overtime pay at time and one half their regular hourly rate when they work over 40 hours in a work week.
Finally, oil and gas companies will misclassify employees as an exempt from overtime pay. This means that employees will be paid a set salary regardless of how many hours worked in a week. Whether an employee should receive a set salary or overtime pay depends on what that employee is actually doing on a day to day basis. This is true even if you are employed as a supervisor or manager. If you spend the majority of your day performing manual or nonsupervisory work, you are likely entitled to overtime pay.
With the domestic boom in natural shale gas, oil and gas companies which perform exploration and drilling are always looking for employees. Oil and gas companies typically hire employees for jobs as a: field engineer or supervisor, derrick hand, driller, floor hand, roughneck, rig hand, mechanic, roustabout, welder, compressor operator, equipment operator, lease hand, production foreman, pumper, well tender, and coiler.
Typically, individuals employed in one of these positions will work for several weeks straight, work 10 to 12 hour days, and be considered “on call” at all times. This results in working a substantial amount of overtime each workweek.
If you have worked for an oil or gas company either in the Marcellus Shale or anywhere else and not paid overtime, you can contact the employment attorneys at Fitapelli & Schaffer. F&S is a well-respected and nationally recognized, seven attorney employment litigation firm that represents oil and gas employees in a wide variety of employment matters, including individual and class action litigation involving unpaid wages. To find out whether you are entitled to overtime pay, you can contact our office at (212) 300-0375 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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