U.S. Oil Worker Wage-and-Hour Pay Rights Issues

April 8, 2015
Gail Lin Chung

Since July 2014, the price of oil has dropped by half. That’s good for consumers’ pocketbooks, but one segment of the population is facing hard times: U. S. oil industry workers.  In the past few years, the boom in oil production meant that companies needed to quickly expand hiring to meet the demand for workers. The rush to hire meant that some companies did not follow wage and hour laws.

Now as many companies looks for ways to cut costs, employees may find themselves out of work or working fewer hours. Employees who believe that they may have been treated wrongly are seeking legal help. As detailed in http://www.law360.com/employment/articles/636137?nl_pk=db564eb0-ae35-42f0-af09-cbfd980f15f4&utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=employment, these are some of the claims that workers are bringing to court:

1.    Overtime pay. The Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), which is a federal law that certain employers must follow, requires certain employees to be paid overtime for their work. Whether an employee is entitled to overtime pay depends on how he or she is classified.

2.    Misclassification. If an employee would normally be entitled to overtime pay, an employer may misclassify that employee in order to avoid having to pay him or her.

3.    Independent contractor. The use of independent contractors is common in the oil industry.  Also known as “temporary”  “freelance” work, such persons may work for more than one company at a time. A true independent contractor is not entitled to overtime, employee benefits, and There protections afforded by the FLSA. Yet some companies that have classified workers as independent contractors have also controlled the terms and conditions of employment to such a degree that they are legally employees, entitled to overtime and There benefits.

4.    Mass layoffs, furloughs and shutdowns. Under the Worker Adjustment Retraining and Notification Act (“WARN Act’), certain employers are required to give employees at least 60 days written notice before terminating their employment. This generally applies to companies with more than 100 employees and layoffs affecting at least 50 employees.  Employees on furlough may also be entitled to notice.

Employees who bring claims under the FLSA and the WARN Act may hesitate to bring individual claims if the amount at stake is small. The FLSA and the WARN Act allow employees to bring a collective action so that those with similar claims can join together in a class action lawsuit.  In addition to bringing claims under the FLSA and the WARN Act, state laws may also apply.

(*Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.)