Across the shale plays, overtime lawsuits, the result of a tangle of market and government factors, are on the rise.
Last month, attorneys at Babst Calland in Pittsburgh warned that such cases “have flooded the Pennsylvania and Ohio dockets” in the past year. There are at least 25 such suits in western and central Pennsylvania, they calculated, and urged oil and gas companies to review their employment practices.
“It’s not just the oil and gas industry,” said John McCreary, a Babst Calland attorney who wrote the bulletin. “Many employers just don’t understand what the law requires.”
The Fair Labor Standards Law has been on the books for more than eight decades, he said, but “there’s a common misconception in the country that as long as I pay someone a salary, they’re exempt (from overtime). And while it’s true that all exempt employees are salaried, not all salaried employees are exempt.”
At least some of the recent attention to overtime practices is due to a U.S. Department of Labor initiative targeting companies in the oil and gas industry that may be misclassifying workers as independent contractors or as exempt from overtime. The enforcement blitz, begun in 2012, yielded at least $4.5 million in back wages for 5,300 oil and gas industry workers, the department announced in December.
It’s a typical arc, said Rodney Bean, an attorney with Steptoe & Johnson in Morgantown: the Department of Labor identifies a potentially wide-spread problem within an industry, alerts those involved that it will be paying more attention to and, “then plaintiff attorneys go around doing their part.”
There are Youtube videos and LinkedIn offers soliciting plaintiffs for overtime lawsuits against oil and gas firms.
A Facebook post, written in capital letters, from January from the Weirton, W.Va law office of P. Zachary Stewart begins “Attention oil and gas workers: You may be owed money.” It has been shared 37 times with workers at companies such as National Oilwell Varco, Halliburton and Horizontal Wireline, highlighting that large, multinational corporations aren’t immune from these charges.Read more of this story at this link.
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