3 ways oilfield workers are cheated by their employers

Unpaid overtime issues in the oilfield

Oil and gas companies have a great deal of work in the Permian Basin (Midland, Odessa, Monahans, Pecos and surrounding areas), as well as the Haynesville, Barnett Shale and Eagle Ford shale plays and across Texas, and oilfield workers are and have been forced to work long hours away from their families.   The Fair Labor Standards Act or FLSA requires that non-exempt employees, including most oilfield workers, be paid time and a half for overtime, which is defined as any hours worked over 40 per week.  Unfortunately, overtime pay violations in the oil and gas industry are very common.

The simple fact is that most oilfield workers are entitled to overtime pay.  If you work or have worked in the oil and gas industry in the past three years and have not received overtime pay, you should speak with an experienced overtime attorney to learn about and protect your legal rights.

This post will discuss the most common unpaid overtime issues facing those working oilfield jobs.

Misclassification

Some oil and gas companies tell their employees that they are exempt from overtime pay if they are paid a salary or because they are given an important-sounding title like “engineer” “technical specialist” or “manager.”  Others are told that they are exempt because they are classified as an independent contractor.  This is not true. Whether an oilfield worker is exempt from overtime pay has nothing to do with his or her job title or how he or she is paid. Instead, eligibility for overtime pay is determined by the worker’s job duties and responsibilities.  If you work in an oilfield job, you should not assume you are exempt from overtime pay based on your job title or because you are paid a salary or because you are told you are an independent contractor.  Instead, you should talk to an attorney to see whether you are owed overtime pay.

Straight Time

Oilfield workers also face overtime issues involving their method of payment. Oil and gas companies sometimes pay their oilfield employees “straight time,” meaning the employees are paid the same hourly rate for every hour worked. If the oil and gas company does not pay one-and-a-half times the employee’s hourly rate and the employee is not exempt under the FLSA, a lawsuit may be filed to recover unpaid overtime.

Failure to Pay for Time Traveling from Site to Site, or for Safety Meetings or Training

Another issue facing oilfield workers is travel time. When an oilfield employee is required to report to a specific place to receive instructions or to pick up tools and equipment, the travel from the designated meeting place to the job site is part of the day’s work and must be counted as hours worked. Thus, in the case of a field inspector who reports to a central office every morning to receive his assignments for the workday and returns every evening to report his findings, all travel time logged from the point at which the field inspector leaves the central office in the morning until he returns to that office at night is considered compensable.

Likewise, an employee must be compensated for time spent traveling from the place of performance of one principal employment activity to the place of performance of another principal employment activity.  The best example is a repairman who travels from home to job site, and then from job site to job site. All travel time logged from the when he arrives at the first job site to when he leaves the last job site is compensable.  This happens often in the oil and gas industry, where those working in the oilfield are often required to travel from one drill site to another, and are often incorrectly told that such drive time does not count for the purposes of overtime.

Time spent for training, cleaning tools, attending safety or planning meetings are part of an oilfield worker’s job and should count as hours worked for the purposes of unpaid overtime. Sometimes, oilfield workers are told that these tasks cannot count as hours worked or that they must be done “off the clock.” In such cases, the oilfield worker may have a claim for unpaid overtime.

Common Oil and Gas Jobs with Unpaid Overtime Issues

These problems are common in oilfield jobs and in the oil and gas industry. Below is a list of only a few of the many oilfield jobs that may be entitled to overtime pay: oilfield laborers; electricians; wireline operators; mechanics; roustabouts; oilfield delivery specialists; tool pushers; treating specialists; equipment operators; maintenance technicians; well testers; instrument fitters; rig operators; directional drillers; and pumpers.  Short-haul truckers who are paid by the load, with no extra compensation for hours worked above 40 in a week, may also have a claim for unpaid overtime.  There is no doubt that many oilfield workers working for oil and gas companies in the Permian Basin, Barnett, Eagle Ford and Haynesville areas, and across Texas, are being shorted on overtime pay.

If you work in the oilfields in the Permian Basin or the Barnett, Haynesville, or Eagle Ford shale areas or work in the oil and gas industry and are working more than forty hours per week without receiving overtime pay, you may be entitled to thousands of dollars in unpaid overtime, attorney’s fees, and an equal amount in liquidated damages. The FLSA is a powerful tool for recovering unpaid overtime.  If you work in an oilfield job or in the oil and gas industry, and you feel that your employer owes you unpaid overtime, or if you have questions regarding overtime pay, call the Law Firm of Josh Borsellino for a free consultation.

About the Author: I represent oilfield workers in claims for lost wages, unpaid bonuses and overtime pay. While my office is located in Fort Worth, I am admitted to practice in every state and federal court in Texas, and I am able handle unpaid overtime cases in Midland, Odessa, Monahans, Pecos, Big Spring, Lamesa, Fort Stockton, Abilene, Fort Worth, Arlington, Grand Prairie, Denton, Alvarado, Burleson, Cleburne, Houston, Waco, Austin, San Antonio, and across Texas. If you believe you may be owed unpaid overtime, call me at 432.242.7118 or 817.908.9861 or fill out my contact form for a free evaluation.