Recent U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) investigations into the oil and gas industry have uncovered an alarming trend of companies underpaying workers, many of whom perform high-risk jobs, in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). These violations seem particularly egregious when you consider that this industry has enjoyed rapid expansion over the last several years. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, between 2007 and 2012, employment in the oil and gas industry grew by over thirty percent while, during the same period, average employment among U.S. industries decreased by nearly three percent.
In an effort to crack down on these wage violations, the Northeast and Southwest regional offices of the DOL began a special enforcement initiative targeting fracking and its supporting industries. After conducting 435 investigations, the DOL determined companies owed more than $13 million in back wages to over 9,100 workers. In most cases, these companies were misclassifying full-time non-exempt employees as either independent contractors, who are not covered by the FLSA, or as employees exempt from the FLSA's overtime requirements.
Some labor lawyers specializing in wage disputes argue that the FLSA's difficult to understand provisions cause many employers to unintentionally violate its laws. However, many of the DOL's investigations revealed that companies are willfully using the misclassification technique to keep labor costs low, thereby gaining an edge in a highly competitive industry, albeit at the expense of their employees' rights to time and a half pay for all overtime hours.
If you are an oil and gas industry worker, and you are concerned your employer is improperly denying you overtime pay, please contact our firm. We can help you understand your rights under the FLSA, and ensure you receive the pay to which you are entitled.