Overtime Oil Work Oversights: Are You Getting Paid What You’re Worth?

You’ve worked and sweated for the same oil company for over 10 years. Although the work is hard, the pay is relatively good. Sure you’ve missed the occasional baseball game and recital, had to postpone more than one anniversary, and had to use Skype to see your daughter’s birth, but sometimes your job requires you work longer hours. However, your wife—still reeling over the fact that she had to hold an iPad, instead of your hand during her delivery—has recently begun to resent your job, and has decided to compare your pay with what it actually costs you. In doing so, she discovered several discrepancies with your overtime pay that you never even noticed.

After calculating the amount of time you’ve worked this year (2,886 hours—566 of which were overtime), and then comparing that number to your pay stubs, she discovered that you had only been paid for roughly half of the overtime you worked. Half? How can that be? That means that you were essentially gipped of 250 hours’ worth of OT, or nearly $11,000. You can’t even imagine—or rather you don’t want to imagine—how much you’ve been cheated out of for the past decade. 

How could your employer do this? You worked for that money, why weren’t you paid?

Common Overtime Miscalculations and Oversights in the Oil Industry

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires that your employer pay you overtime (usually 1.5 times your normal hourly pay) for every hour you work past your scheduled work week. If your job isn’t considered exempt from overtime pay you’re entitled to proper OT, even if your job requires long hours. Since oil workers can sometimes reach 100 work hours in a single week due to “mandatory” overtime, this means that you’re entitled to 60 hours’ worth of time and a half for payable work. Keeping this in mind, anything you do that is related to your job, or is caused by your job, is considered payable work.

Unfortunately, many oil industry employers take advantage of industry-standard salaries, as well as the required overtime hours to mask proper OT wages. Common factors and tricks that employers use to contribute to overtime oversights are:

  • Title and pay misclassifications. Some employers will convince their employees that they’re not eligible for overtime pay because their base pay is salaried, their title (manager, engineer, contractor) exempts them from receiving additional OT benefits, or that since they consider them to be “independent contractors” the employers aren’t responsible for OT pay. All of these stipulations are false when it comes to OT eligibility. In the oil industry, overtime isn’t defined by your title or how you’re paid, it’s determined by your duties, responsibilities, and time worked. Basically, the majority of oil workers are eligible for overtime pay.
  • Straight time. Many oil industry employers will pay their employees an hourly rate called “straight time” no matter how many hours they work. For this pay to be legal under FLSA guidelines, the base pay must be factored with overtime in mind. For example, if normal pay for your type of job is $30 an hour (with additional OT pay), and you would generally be required to work 20 hours of overtime, your weekly pay would average out to be $2,100 ($30 x 40 Hours + $45 x 20 OT hours). However, if you’re being paid straight time, than your base pay must equal the same amount as if you were paid a normal wage, in this case $35 an hour ($2,100 / (40 normal hours + 20 additional hours). Unfortunately, depending on how many overtime hours you wind up working, your base pay may not change, making your overall pay less than what the FLSA mandates.
  • Travel pay. Travel time is a big issue for oil field inspectors as the time in which they spend traveling to different sites is considered compensable under FLSA rules, but many employers only calculate the time in which the inspector was at the site, not the time it took him to get to the site, or the time it took to get back to the field office to report his findings. Overtime rules clearly state that any time taken to perform your work duties qualify as time worked and is eligible for OT pay.
  • Training and meeting pay. In addition to travel time, training periods and meetings also fall under payable time as they are required as part of your job. Unfortunately, some employers require their employees to attend meetings off the clock, or before their shift begins

Fight Back to Get the Pay You Deserve

If you feel that your employer is mishandling, overlooking, or downright denying you your rightful overtime pay, contact us today. Our vast experience and knowledge with oil industry standards as well as employers’ techniques to circumvent adequate pay, will help you get the overtime, as well as back pay that you deserve. Remember, if you’re not paid what you deserve, you’re essentially working for free.

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