We all know the bad news – major layoffs are occurring throughout the oil and gas drilling industry, but there is some good news on the energy jobs front as well. As the drilling business slows, major energy players are aggressively moving ahead with plans to build a number of chemical plants, and they are hiring. Many oilfield workers already have the construction and manufacturing skills being sought by employers involved in the construction of these facilities and are a hot commodity.

In making the transition from the oilfield to chemical industrial plant construction, workers will find a number of similarities – including demands to work schedules that require many hours of mandatory overtime. They will also find some familiar pay schemes that purport to cover all of those long hours without the payment of proper overtime wages. Such schemes commonly include:

  • Day Rate Pay
  • Hourly Straight Time Pay
  • Salary Based Pay for Non-Management “field” Jobs

The key to determining the answer to the question of “is my job legally entitled to overtime pay” hinges on whether the job is “exempt” or “non-exempt” under the federal overtime pay laws. The starting point is that all jobs are non-exempt and thus must be paid time and a half for all hours worked over 40 per week. The exceptions to this rule are provided by specific legal “exemptions” from the overtime regulations, giving us the label of “exempt” for such jobs. Unless a job meets the pay and job duties requirements of one or more of these specific exemptions, it is classified as a non-exempt position and must be paid overtime. In most cases, exempt jobs must be paid a guaranteed salary AND have job duties that include management, supervision of 2 or more employees, and/or non-manual work relating to the actual operation of the business. The most commonly applied exemptions are the “executive”, “administrative”, “professional” and Motor Carrier Act (applies to truck drivers).

Workers transitioning from the oil patch to construction (or any other job) should be on the lookout for illegal compensation plans that cheat them out of overtime wages. They should also take the time to consider the pay practices of the company they are departing. Not surprisingly, most claims for unpaid overtime are brought by workers after they have left an employer. These claims remain available to former employees even if they have signed a release and/or accepted some type of severance package. The wage and hour laws purposely make giving up the right to claim unpaid overtime more complex in order to protect the rights of workers who typically are unaware of their rights at the time such agreements are signed.

Takeaway: When it comes to compensation plans that do not clearly provide time and a half pay for every hour worked past 40 per week – be skeptical, ask questions, and if uncertain, do not take the company’s word for it. There may be significant amounts of your money at stake, so it is worth investing the time to talk with a lawyer who handles overtime pay claims (consultations are typically free and cases are handled on a contingent fee basis).

To get more information and/or answers as to your potential entitlement to overtime, contact the wage and hour experts at The Lore Law Firm to get a free and confidential review of your specific situation. Call 1-866-559-0400, email [email protected] or submit your information using our convenient Case Evaluation form.