Overtime and Wage Issues

For Marcellus Gas Well Workers

Oil and natural gas jobs in West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania are a hot commodity right now. Oil and gas companies have a great deal of work in the Marcellus Shale region and qualified workers are in short supply. This means that workers in oil and natural gas jobs frequently work long hours, sometimes reaching 100 or more hours in a single week due to mandatory overtime. While The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not prohibit the energy service companies from forcing their employees to work large amounts of overtime, it does require that they pay overtime to non-exempt hourly employees who work more than 40 hours per week at a rate equal to one-and-a-half times their regular rate of pay. Unfortunately, overtime pay violations in the oil and gas industry are very common. This post will discuss the most common issues facing those working oil and natural gas jobs.

Misclassification of jobs

Some oil and gas companies tell their employees that they are exempt from overtime pay if they are paid a salary or because they are given an important-sounding title like "engineer", "technical specialist", or "manager." Others are told that they are exempt because they are classified as an independent contractor. This is not true. Whether an oil or natural gas worker is exempt from overtime pay has nothing to do with his or her job title or how he or she is paid. Instead, eligibility for overtime pay is determined by the worker's job duties and responsibilities. The simple fact is that most salaried oil and natural gas workers and independent contractors are entitled to overtime pay. If you work in an oil or natural gas job, you should not assume that you are exempt from overtime pay based on your job title because you are paid a fixed salary or because you are an independent contractor.

Straight Time

Oil and natural gas workers also face overtime issues involving their method of payment. Oil and gas companies sometimes pay their employees "straight time," meaning the employees are paid the same hourly rate for every hour worked. If the oil and gas company does not pay one-and-a-half times the employee's regular rate, or even hourly rate, and the employee is not exempt under the FLSA guidelines, a lawsuit may be filed to recover unpaid overtime.

Hourly Employees Who Receive a Per Diem, Truck Pay, Or Other Allowances

In many instances this group of workers also do not get paid the correct amount of overtime. While their paystubs reflect overtime at one-and-one half times their hourly rate, their overtime rate is not correct because it does not include the per diem, truck pay, or other allowances. The overtime rate is to be based off an employee's regular rate not their hourly rate. The regular rate is a legal term, which includes all of an employee's compensation or all money paid to an employee for their work.

Failure to Pay for Time Traveling from Site to Site, Safety Meetings or Training

Another issue facing oil and natural gas workers is travel time. When an employee is required to report to a specific place to receive instructions or to pick up tools and equipment, the travel from the designated meeting place to the job site is part of the day's work and must be counted as hours worked. Thus, in the case of a field inspector, as an example, who reports to a central office every morning to receive his assignments for the workday and returns every evening to report his findings, all travel time logged from the point at which the field inspector leaves the central office in the morning until he or she returns to that office at night is considered compensable.

Likewise, an employee must be compensated for time spent traveling from the place of performance of one principal employment activity to the place of performance of another principal employment activity. The best example is a repairman who travels from home to job site, and then from job site to job site. All travel time logged from when he arrives at the first job site to when he leaves the last job site is compensable. This happens often in the oil and gas industry, where those working in the field are often required to travel from one site to another, and are often incorrectly told that such drive time does not count for the purposes of overtime.

Time spent for training, cleaning tools, attending safety or planning meetings are part of an oil or natural gas worker's job and should count as hours worked for the purposes of paid overtime. Sometimes, these workers are told that these tasks cannot count as hours worked or that they must be done "off the clock." In such cases, the worker may have a claim for unpaid overtime.

Common Oil and Gas Jobs with Unpaid Overtime Issues

These problems are common in oilfield jobs and in the oil and gas industry. Below is a list of only a few of the many jobs that may be entitled to overtime pay:

  • Compressor Operator
  • Pumper/Well Tender
  • Draftsman/Cartographer
  • Production Foreman
  • Driver
  • Derrick Hand
  • Electrician
  • Driller
  • Equipment Operator
  • Floor Hand/Roughneck/Rig Hand
  • GIS Specialist
  • Roustabout
  • Lease Hand
  • Truck Driver
  • Mechanic
  • Other jobs classified as exempt

Short-haul truckers who are paid by the load, with no extra compensation for hours worked above 40 in a week, may also have a claim for unpaid overtime. There is no doubt that many oil and natural gas workers working for oil and gas companies in the Marcellus Shale area and across West Virginia, Ohio, New York and Pennsylvania, are being shorted on overtime pay.

If you are a current or former oil and gas worker and believe that you may have a compensation issue or would like to get more information, please call us at 304.914.3577 or 724.472.4697.