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BP Settles Deepwater Responders' OT Pay Suit

Law360

BP PLC on Wednesday settled a suit in Louisiana federal court accusing the oil giant of denying overtime compensation to a class of support workers who helped with BP's response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The plaintiffs, BP and co-defendant The Response Group LLC, a BP subcontractor, jointly filed a motion requesting approval of a settlement in which BP will make payments to each of the 215 class members based upon their reported overtime hours and their pay rates. BP, which denied the plaintiffs' claims, will also pay for the plaintiffs' costs, expenses and attorneys' fees.

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“The parties' settlement is informed and will fairly resolve all the class members' claims in the litigation,” they said. “This settlement represents a fair and reasonable compromise of these claims.”

In the suit, filed in February 2011, the plaintiffs claim that BP and TRG, an emergency response consulting firm, intentionally misclassified the plaintiffs and other disaster response workers as independent contractors, denying them overtime compensation and other employment benefits.

The support workers, who were paid a daily rate for 12-hour shifts, typically worked 14 days in a row, followed by four days off, the complaint says. In one period, the workers claim they worked for several weeks straight without a day off.

TRG required the workers to sign employment contracts releasing the company from related claims, including ones related to “environmental hazards,” and attempted to be released from claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act as well, the plaintiffs alleged.

In May, U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier conditionally certified the class.

The oil spill support workers were stationed at command centers in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, where they performed duties such as data entry, checking equipment in and out, and taking inventory, according to the complaint.

The work required no formal training or skills, and BP and TRG controlled the workers' day-to-day duties, the plaintiffs alleged. The companies set compensation levels, schedules and uniform requirements, and the workers needed their approval on time sheets, expense reports, time off and payroll, the suit said.

Following the April 20 blast in the Gulf of Mexico, BP hired support workers from across the U.S., the complaint said. At the height of its response efforts in July 2010, BP was relying on more than 45,000 people, the company said.

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The case is Brewer et al. v. BP PLC et al., case number 2:11-cv-00401, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.