What About My Bonus? Enforcing Bonus Promises to Oilfield Workers

Across Texas (in West Texas in the Permian Basin and in South Texas in the Eagle Ford Shale, particularly) and in many other parts of the country, oil and gas production is booming, and oilfield workers are in demand as never before.  This oil boom has led oilfield companies to craft incentives for their employees to work harder and faster.  Oil and gas companies (and their contractors) often pay their employees safety or performance bonuses.  Oilfield workers are often paid bonuses for completing their jobs within a certain amount of time.  It is not uncommon for drivers for oilfield companies to receive load bonuses for each load they drive to or from a drill site.  Sometimes the bonuses are paid by the oil and gas companies to the employees of the companies that they contract with.  For instance, the oil and gas company leasing the drill site may pay the employees of the drilling contractor a completion bonus if the crew is able to drill the well within a certain amount of time.  It is rare that these bonus payments are ever documented in writing – instead, the bonuses are generally promised verbally.  When oil and gas companies or their contractors look to cut their budgets, unfortunately one of the first items to go is employee perks, including promised bonus pay.  Thus it is not uncommon for oilfield employees to end up asking where their promised bonus went.

All hope is not lost, however.  Oilfield workers that do not receive their promised bonuses are not entirely without recourse under Texas law.  It is possible that an oilfield worker who performed work after being promised a certain bonus would be able to enforce this agreement under Texas law.  There are a variety of causes of action–including breach of contract (a contract can be oral or written under Texas law), quantum meruit, unjust enrichment, and breach of express warranty, to name a few–that could be asserted against a current or former employer or contracting company to recover the promised bonus.  A pay agreement can be established by both verbal and written evidence.  Pay agreements that are ambiguous (i.e., can be understood in two or more different ways by reasonable people), will usually be resolved against the employer, since the employer was presumably in charge of how the agreement was reached and is responsible for expressing its intent clearly.

If you currently or formerly (within the past four years) worked for an oilfield company and performed work but were not paid your promised bonus, you should visit with an attorney to determine your legal rights.  Do not wait, as doing so could bar your potential claims.  I provide free consultations to workers with questions about unpaid bonuses or overtime pay, and in most cases that I accept, I represent workers on a contingency basis, meaning I do not get paid unless and until there is a recovery.  For more information regarding common unpaid overtime issues facing oilfield workers, click here.

About the author: I represent workers in wage disputes.  My office is located in Fort Worth, Texas, but I am able to handle bonus pay, unpaid overtime and other wage disputes in Dallas, Fort Worth, Cleburne, Burleson, Denton, Arlington, Grand Prairie, Houston, Waco, Austin, Midland, Odessa, Amarillo, San Antonio, and across Texas.  For a free evaluation of your legal matter, call me at 817.908.9861 or fill out the contact form.