Workers are flocking to newly created fieldwork positions as the oil and gas industries boom in states like Texas, North Dakota, and Oklahoma. While the renewed vigor of the drilling industry has been creating numerous jobs with a starting wage that is hard to beat, some employers in the energy industry are maximizing profits during the boom by:
- Misclassifying oil and gas fieldworkers as independent contractors
- Paying “straight time” instead of time-and-half overtime
So why the problems with pay when the industry is, by all reports, doing well? As part of a look into these kinds of wage abuses in the oil and gas industry, NPR’s StateImpact project recently interviewed Galvin Kennedy about his experience suing energy companies on the behalf of their fieldworkers. Galvin Kennedy has represented numerous energy industry employees in overtime lawsuits against their employers, and he says that “Anytime you have a boom, you’re going to have some people try to cut corners even when there’s a ton of money flowing around, and the oil and gas industry is no exception.”
Field Workers in the Energy Industry Can Take Action Despite the Complexity of Wage and Overtime Issues
Part of the issue is the complexity of wage and hour law, making it difficult for employees and employers both to determine exactly what is owed when a worker’s hours tip over 40 for the week—and the problem is pervasive. Cynthia Watson, the Dallas Regional Administrator with the U.S. Department of Labor, says that complaints of overtime abuses have been numerous and consistent in states where drilling has expanded. In just the last year, the Department of Labor has worked to get $6.7 million in back pay for thousands of energy industry workers in their Southwest Region. However, although overtime abuses are common, fieldworkers often need to seek legal help just to make sense of a potential claim, and many abuses go unreported.
Do you have questions about your overtime rights as a fieldworker in the energy industry? Give the friendly team at Kennedy Hodges a call to start taking action today, or simply leave us a comment below with your thoughts.