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.


Galvin B. Kennedy
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Galvin Kennedy is a founding partner of Kennedy Hodges. He focuses his practice to overtime and wage claims.