Commonly Asked Oil and Gas Service Worker Questions

Have questions about your legal matter and are afraid to ask? If so, head on over to our FAQ section in which we tackle a variety of important topics that matter to you. Find answers to questions regarding car accidents, medical malpractice, unpaid overtime, and a variety of other legal subjects that may be affecting you. 
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  • How do oil and gas companies violate wage and overtime laws?

    Working in the oil and gas industry is often difficult and may require long hours in physically demanding positions. Employees Closeup of Overtime Clock in Redwho work more than 40 hours in a week are entitled to overtime compensation under the law unless they meet one of a handful of limited exceptions to the rule. If you are an employee in this field and are not receiving overtime compensation, it is important to assess whether your company is committing a wage or overtime violation.

    Six Signs You Are the Victim of Wage and Overtime Violations by Your Company

    How can you tell if you are entitled to overtime compensation? It is important to consult with a knowledgeable attorney familiar with the laws relating to wage and overtime. However, there are also certain signs to watch for that may indicate you are being unfairly compensated. The following is an overview:

    1. You are a field service worker. Many companies in the oil and gas industry employ field service workers whose job it is to provide service to the company’s clients or assist the company in its operations. Examples of field service workers include field service engineers, mud engineers, tool pushers, technicians, and tanker men. Often, oil and gas companies pay their field service workers either a fixed salary, a day rate, or a per job rate. The companies may claim that the employees are therefore not entitled to overtime pay. This is not often the case, however, Field service workers typically do not fall within any of the stated exemptions from overtime pay under the law. As a result, a field service worker is entitled to overtime compensation if he or she works more than 40 hours in a given week. If you are a field service worker in the oil and gas industry and your company informs you that you are exempt from overtime compensation, you may therefore be entitled to overtime pay that you were wrongfully denied.
       
    2. You received bonuses or other forms of extra pay and it was not considered as part of your overtime compensation. When employees in the oil and gas industry are paid bonuses, this is typically done as compensation for work performed in the past. As a result, the pay should be included when calculating the employee’s overtime rate. For example, if you are paid $20 per hour, but are given a non-discretionary bonus at the end of the week, your hourly rate should be adjusted upwards. This then means that your overtime pay rate should be increased. Some employers do not do so, and instead fail to readjust the employee’s overtime payments for the period of time covered by the bonus. If you work in the oil and gas industry and received a bonus, you may be entitled to unpaid overtime compensation.
       
    3. Your company labeled you an independent contractor. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, independent contractors are not entitled to overtime compensation. However, an employer cannot simply deem an employee an independent contractor in an effort to avoid paying overtime compensation. There are various factors that dictate whether a person is an independent contractor vs. an employee. However, if you are economically dependent on the company and not in business for yourself, then you are an employee and are entitled to overtime compensation if you work more than 40 hours in a week.
       
    4. You are an assistant manager. If you are an assistant manager level employee, you are entitled to overtime compensation even if you are paid a salary, unless you fall under the executive exemption of the Fair Labor Standards Act. There are three tests to determine whether this is the case. First, your primary duty must be management of the company, department, or subdivision. Second, you must regularly direct the work of two or more other full time employees. And finally, you must have the authority to hire or fire other employees, or at least to make suggestions and recommendations with regard to hiring, firing, promoting, advancing, or other work status changes. In most cases, an assistant manager level employee is entitled to overtime.
       
    5. You are required to work certain hours, but are not paid for all of those hours. For example, if you are required to clock in at 8 a.m. and clock out at 5 p.m., but are then required to do work later in the evening from home, you are entitled to overtime compensation for that additional time.
       
    6. You were previously classified as being exempt from overtime compensation, but then were reclassified as being non-exempt. Once reclassified, your employer did not give you any back pay for the overtime that you previously worked. Employers are required to do so under the law. They also must pay you liquidated damages in many cases, which equates to double the amount that was originally owed to you.

    If you have reason to believe that you may be entitled to overtime compensation that you are not receiving, we strongly encourage you to seek professional legal assistance. To learn more about the overtime compensation that you may be entitled to, reach out today for more information at (888) 449-2068.

     

  • How does a misclassified title affect my overtime wages when working in the oil industry? What can I do to make sure I get paid what I’m owed?

    You started working for a new oil company as a crane operator about a month ago. Since you started you’ve received two paychecks, both of which were missing hours. After receiving the first check, you went to your boss for an explanation and he assured you that it was because the first two weeks were considered training hours which are calculated differently. Fine. You can concede that that could have been the problem. Although you weren’t informed of the calculation difference when you were hired, you let that one slide. You were planning on working a lot of overtime in the next few weeks anyway which should make up for the short funds anyway.

    However, when you opened your second check and not only found that it too was wrong, but that your OT wasn’t on it, you were livid.  Therefore, you discussed it again with your boss. After several days’ worth of brush-offs, delays, and “I’m looking into it,” he finally got back to you saying the check is correct based on your title and job requirements.

    What? That’s impossible!

    You requested to see your file and discovered that your boss had classified you as an “independent contractor,” although you’re a full-time employee. When you brought the error to his attention, he sheepishly said there was nothing he could do about it, and suggested that you take up any complaints with human resources. However, since your checks are accurate with your title, and you’re not eligible for time and a half for OT hours, there wasn’t anything else to discuss.

    That is absolute hogwash. You should get paid for your work no matter what you are classified as in your file. What can you do to make sure the company pays you what you’re owed?  

    Investigations Into Oil Industry Misclassifications

    In 2012, the Department of Labor (DOL) began a special enforcement initiative into oil industry misclassifications and overtime pay abuse. As of August 2014, the agency has uncovered over 9,000 violations and recovered more than $13 million in back wages.

    As stated by Dr. David Weil, the head of the DOL's Wage and Hour Division, and corroborated by Rutgers University findings, “employers are looking for opportunities in a changing business landscape at the employee's expenses to cut corners as much as possible, leaving room for wage and hour violations." By doing something as simple as misclassifying an employee title, employers can save thousands of dollars, by essentially taking it out of that employee’s pocket.

    Misclassifying employees can result in the denial of:

    • Standard wages. As an oil industry worker, your job is considered dangerous and therefore requires additional pay. However, if you’re classified as an independent contractor, your “client” can legally pay you less than minimum wage.
    • Overtime pay. When classified as an independent worker, you’re exempt from FLSA OT regulations. Therefore, your employer can pay you a straight hourly rate no matter if the extra hours you put in are overtime or not.
    • Unemployment insurance. Employers aren’t legally required to provide insurance for unemployment to contractual workers.
    • Workers' compensation benefits. As an independent contractor, employers don’t have to honor workers’ comp since you’re classified as an independent worker.

    If you discover that your employer has misclassified your job as an independent contractor, contact us today for a free consultation. You deserve to be properly paid for your work. Don’t allow an error or deliberate trick to cost you.

    Sharing the (Deserved) Wealth

    Do you want to protect your friends and family from overtime pay abuse? An easy way to help is to use your social media connections. By sharing this article on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, you can keep your loved ones aware, and help keep their paychecks safe from continuous OT discrepancies. Simply click the media icons to post to your wall. Remember, a single post could wind up saving your friends hundreds if not thousands of dollars—isn’t that worth it?

    Need more information about oil industry OT pay? Contact us directly for a free consultation, or like us on Facebook for periodic updates and legal advice.

     

  • Can I still pursue a wage claim against the gas company if I’m highly paid despite my unpaid overtime?

    Many fieldworkers in the oil and gas industries are afraid to pursue the back pay they are owed because they believe that they make too much to worry about it. However, although many positions in the field are highly compensated, it doesn’t give your employer free license to abuse your wage rights. Your rights to appropriate pay are protected under the law, and neither you nor your employer can choose to ignore the law.

    Unfortunately, lots of employers in the oil and gas industries attempt to “hide” wage abuses under generous starting salaries for their fieldworkers, especially in areas with new drilling prospects. Workers may be hesitant to report any complaints about wages because they are already so highly compensated, but truth is that many of them are working a shocking number of unpaid hours for the paycheck they do bring home.

    No matter how much or how little you make, you have a right to pursue a wage claim if your employer isn’t paying you appropriately. If you’re feeling a little guilty about pursuing a wage claim against an employer who is already compensating you generously, realize that your claim isn’t about personal greed—it’s about your employer following the laws that protect its workforce.

    Do you have questions about your wages or overtime pay as a fieldworker in the oil and gas industry? Take a moment to request and read our free guide, 10 Biggest Mistakes That Can Hurt Your Wage & Overtime Claim, and then contact our experienced employment law team directly for a free, no-obligation case review.

  • Why am I hearing about so many overtime lawsuits involving the oil and gas industry?

    Increasingly, workers in the oil and gas industry are pursuing legal action against their employers due to unpaid overtime compensation. The problem with employees not being paid their rightful compensation is not a new one, however. The industry has long had an issue with wage and overtime violations. There are several reasons for the increase in legal action.

    5 Reasons for Increased Wage and Overtime Lawsuits

    Why are we seeing lawsuits in the oil and gas industry regarding unpaid overtime compensation? The following are five reasons:

    1. Many employers simply do not fully understand the requirements of the law. For example, many employers believe that if a worker is paid a salary, he or she is automatically exempt from overtime compensation. This is not the law, however. All salaried employees are not automatically exempt from overtime compensation.
    2. The U.S. Department of Labor has begun an initiative to target companies in the oil and gas industry who are misclassifying workers as independent contractors in order to avoid paying overtime compensation. The initiative first started in 2012 and continues today.
    3. With increased awareness of the widespread overtime and wage violation problem within oil and gas industries, attorneys and law firms have increased efforts to reach employees who may be potential victims. This increased awareness has led to more lawsuits, including those brought as collective actions against a particular employer. Some of these lawsuits have ended in multi-million dollar settlements.
    4. A natural downturn in the industry can also lead to increasing lawsuits. Employees who are laid off do not have the same fear of recourse by their employer as those who are gainfully employed. Similarly, laid off workers may have more incentive to pursue legal action against an employer for unpaid compensation since they are currently out of work.
    5. Many employees simply do not understand their rights under the laws. Unfortunately, many workers do not discover that they were entitled to overtime compensation until well after they initially took the job.

    To learn more about pursuing legal action for unpaid overtime compensation, we encourage you to reach out today for more information at (888) 449-2068.

     

  • Should I be paid for the meetings the gas company requires that I attend before my shift begins?

    This is a question that comes up for many oil and gas employees in Texas—and for shift workers in all kinds of industries across the nation. If your employer requires that you attend a quick meeting before your shift begins, over your lunch hour, or after you’ve clocked out for the day, it should be a major sign that there is a problem.

    Many employers in the oil and gas industry don’t take meetings seriously and don’t count team meetings or training sessions as “real work,” even though these sessions are mandatory. The time employees spend in these sessions isn’t paid, and in most cases, it isn’t even recorded. However, employers are legally required to pay employees for all the time they spend at work or performing mandatory work-related duties. If your employer requires that you perform any unpaid work-related duties before your “real” work begins, there’s a very good chance that it is breaking the law—and you may be able to recover the unpaid wages and overtime pay you are entitled to for that time.

    Holding Employers Responsible for Unpaid Wages and Overtime

    Many workers immediately turn to the Department of Labor to recover their unpaid wages, but these claims are often settled for far less than they are worth. Although most workers are happy to simply receive some portion of the wages they were illegally denied, the law allows workers to seek additional damages to help hold employers responsible for ignoring the law. For more answers and information about maximizing your claim for unpaid wages, schedule a free, no-obligation case review with our experienced Houston legal team today. 

     

  • Did my employer properly follow the requirements of the WARN Act when laying me off?

    Plant Closings Must Follow the Rules of the Warn ActIf you were recently laid off from your position in the oil and gas industry, your employer may have violated the terms of the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act. This Act was designed to protect workers from unexpected layoffs by requiring that they receive a certain amount of advance notice. Many employers, however, make mistakes even when they legitimately attempt to comply with the Act.

    4 Common Mistakes of Employers Under the WARN Act

    What are some of the common mistakes that employers make under the Act? The following is an overview:
    1. The employer misunderstands the meaning of the term “plant closing.” It is important to note that under the Act, plant closing does not necessary mean the entire facility must close.
    2. The employer improperly counts part-time and temporary employees for purposes of the WARN Act rules. Under the Act, part-time employees are not counted, whereas temporary employees are. A part-time employee is an employee who works on average fewer than 20 hours per week, or who has been employed for less than 6 of 12 months preceding the date on which notice is required. Further, while part-time employees are not counted for purposes of determining whether the WARN Act is triggered, if it is triggered, the part-time employees are entitled to receive notice if they are being laid off. Temporary workers, who are counted for purposes of determining whether the Act is triggered, are not entitled to such notice.
    3. The employer fails to consider layoffs that occur within 90 days of the proposed layoff or plant closing. While the initial test calls for an employer to review employment losses within a 30-day period of the proposed layoff, layoffs within the 90-day window can be added together to reach the threshold under the Act. It is important for employers to understand when this 90-day window is applicable.
    4. The employer fails to provide additional notice if changes to the layoff plan occur after the initial notice was provided.

    If you determine that your employer violated the WARN Act requirements, liability may exist. We are here to help protect your legal rights. We encourage you to reach out today to learn more at (888) 449-2068.

     

  • As a field service engineer with a gas company, can I receive overtime pay if I already receive a salary?

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    A lot of oil and gas field workers believe that receiving a salary means that they cannot receive overtime pay, but this is simply not true. In fact, many oil and gas workers who receive a salary are still owed overtime, but their employers overlook the extra hours they put in or pressure employees into so-called “off the clock” hours in order to save money. 

    Most oil and gas field workers are not exempt from overtime pay and should be paid for all of the time they put in at work—including time-and-a-half pay for any hours worked over 40 each week. If you are a non-exempt employee under the law, your employer cannot deny you the overtime pay you have earned.

    However, it isn’t always clear if you’ve been affected by a wage violation, and much depends on your individual job duties—regardless of your job title and how you are paid. If you receive a salary, only a thorough review of your situation can provide the answers you need about your pay for “off the clock” hours and eligibility for overtime.  

    If you have questions about unpaid overtime or other potential wage violations, we strongly encourage you to speak with us in a completely free, confidential, and no-obligation case review today. During your free case review, an experienced employment attorney can answer your questions, evaluate your individual circumstances, and provide guidance on the options available to you. To get started, simply reach out to us today at 888-449-2068.

  • I am required to work my oilfield job in 24-hour shifts, am I entitled to compensation for time spent sleeping?

    24 Hour Sign on a Clock FaceIn the oil and gas industry, some employees are required to spend many hours at a stretch “on duty.” In some cases, these shifts may last for longer than 24 hours at a time. When this happens, the employee may need to spend some time sleeping in order to be able to function adequately. How sleep time is treated for purposes of calculating hours worked is important to a wage or overtime violation claim under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

    5 Important Facts About Sleep Time and the Fair Labor Standards Act

    Determining whether your sleep time is included as part of your hours worked is not always an easy task. The following are five helpful guidelines:

    1. If you are required to be on duty for less than 24 hours, you are considered to be working even if you are allowed to sleep or engage in other personal activities if you are not busy.
    2. If you are required to be on duty for more than 24 hours, you may make an agreement with your employer that allows you to sleep for regularly scheduled periods of time during which you are not considered to be working for purposes of wage and overtime calculations.
    3. If you reach such an agreement with your employer, the sleep time cannot be for period lasting more than eight hours.
    4. In addition, if you reach such an agreement with your employer, the company must supply you with an adequate place to sleep where you will not be interrupted.
    5. If you sleep for less than five hours, the employer is not permitted to reduce your number of hours worked.

    Employees are often at a disadvantage when it comes to fair pay, because there are many ways in which an employer can attempt to avoid the overtime pay obligations laid out under the law. It is therefore crucial for workers to seek legal representation whenever a violation by an employer is suspected. We encourage you to reach out today for more information at (888) 449-2068.

     

  • How should I keep track of my work hours to prove my overtime?

    You’ve been working for the same oil rig for over a year, and you have yet to receive an accurate paycheck. Every time you speak to your boss, he claims that he’s looking into it. You’ve spoken to payroll about a dozen times and although they’re happy to apologize, the issue is still ongoing.

    On average, you work about 60 hours a week—sometimes more, sometimes less. However, your paychecks consistently reflect OT of only eight, nine, or ten hours over the course of a two week pay period. Your incessant complaining will sometimes get you a check from payroll for an additional 10 hours’ worth of overtime pay since payroll can only confirm 10 of the 30+ hours you actually worked over. However, these amendment checks are rare and still not enough.

    You wholeheartedly believe that instead of trying to make up for the missing OT, your employer is basically hoping to pacify you with small amounts so he can continue to work you without properly paying you.

    All in all, over the course of the year, you can safely say that you’ve been tricked, misrepresented, and oppressed out of over 200 hours’ worth of overtime pay. So what can you do? When your employer tells you that there isn’t a record of your overtime, how can you dispute the pay? How can you prove that you’ve worked the hours that you know you’ve worked?

    Documentation, Proof, and a Helping Hand

    According to the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor, the Fair Labor Standards Act guarantees that oil and gas employers pay overtime for all hours worked over the 40 hour work week. Therefore, if you work 40.5 hours one week, your employer is required to pay you a half hours’ worth of overtime at time and one-half.

    Unfortunately, many employers will attempt to avoid having to pay this higher rate through trickery and deceit. Some popular ploys include miscalculating hours worked, misclassifying your work title so you’re exempt from OT wages, and a host of other juvenile tactics. This is why it is extremely important to not only discuss overtime pay with your employer before signing a contract—as well as carefully reading the contract to avoid misrepresentation—but to also keep accurate records of your schedule and personal overtime. This way, when your boss or payroll personnel claims that they lost your paperwork, or can’t verify your overtime hours, you’ll have documentation to present that shows differently.

    Some helpful tips on how to keep track and document your time are as follows:

    • Make a spreadsheet. Don’t rely on your employer’s records. If you use a punch card or computer log in, document the time yourself, copy the timecard, or take a photograph of the time with your phone. Keep track of your start time, breaks, lunches, and ending times.
    • Instigate a witnessed roll call. Some supervisors are willing to set up a system in which they will keep hardcopy documentation of your work hours. Implement a roll call to document break times, lunches, etc. If your supervisor refuses, take breaks and lunches with a trusted colleague in order to act as witnesses.
    • Document everything. If for any reason you must punch out, but you’re still performing tasks associated with your job, make sure you keep track of the time.
    • Keep track of your missed lunches and breaks. You’re entitled to breaks and lunches—unfortunately, you may not always be able to take a break. If you work through your designated rest periods, make sure that time is accurately accounted for on your timesheet.
    • File your pay stubs. Some wage discrepancies can take a long time to figure out and some sneaky employers will intentionally drag it out, hoping you no longer have the stub to prove the discrepancy. Make sure you keep your pay stubs for at least six months to a year after receiving them. This will not only help with payroll issues, but will also aid you with your taxes.
    • Always double check your hours and pay. Although you should be able to trust that you’re properly getting paid, human error, computer errors, and miscommunications occur all the time. Don’t allow someone else’s mistake or glitch to affect your pay. Check, double check, and even triple check to make sure you’re checks, wages, and overtime is properly represented.
    • Inform your employer when you’re about to reach overtime. Sometimes employers are oblivious to how long their employees are working. Make sure your supervisor is aware that you’re approaching overtime, in case he wants to send you home. Otherwise, you may wind up working for free.
    • Acquire legal representation. If your OT grievances are consistently being ignored, or you are continuously being underpaid for OT hours, contact an experienced overtime lawyer today. Proper representation can get you the justice and back pay you deserve.

    Your Money, Our Fight

    We know how employers like to avoid paying their employees. We also know how to legally convince them to pay the wages that have rightfully been earned. They’ll try to use loopholes, misinterpretations, and gray areas to their advantage. However, our experience has taught us to fight fire with fire.