Well Tester and Flowback Hand Jobs – Unpaid Overtime Claims

welltester (3)Adding to a long list of oilfield job categories that have been misclassified and denied the overtime pay they are legally entitled to, Well Testers, Service Tools Operators and Flowback Hands are now filing claims to recover their back wages (and additional damages). These positions have been paid a salary plus a day-rate, with no additional overtime premium for hours over 40 per week. Contrary to common practice in the oil and gas business (in Texas, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and elsewhere), merely paying a salary and/or a day-rate does not relieve an employer from the obligation to pay most field workers time and a half for their overtime hours. In other words, most field workers should be paid time and a half for hours over 40 per week – even if they are paid a salary and/or a day-rate. Drilling down a bit deeper on these claims, the core question is whether the job duties of the well testers and flowback hands make their job “exempt” or “non-exempt” from state and federal labor laws on overtime pay. If “exempt”, they do not have to be paid overtime. However, if they are “non-exempt” they must be paid overtime, regardless of the pay scheme being used by the company. What makes most energy related field positions “non-exempt” is the fact that primary job activities are, for the most part, physical, routine and governed by standardized plans, procedures and checklists that workers are not free to disregard or change. Workers are given specific schedules, processes, and procedures to follow in doing their assigned tasks – leaving little room for the type of independent judgment or discretion, typically associated with exempt jobs. As with many oilfield jobs, Well Testers, Service Operators and Flowback Hands are often required to work schedules that vary, with 12+ hour days, weekends, nights, 7 day work weeks – resulting in very high amounts of overtime hours. While there are few legal limits on the number of hours employees may be required to work, the trade-off is supposed to be a premium pay rate for the overtime hours. This was the intent of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) when it was enacted back in 1938. For decades, oilfield employers, and many others, have tried to avoid paying overtime by using pay plans that are not based on hourly pay – such as day rates, piece rates and salary. While these plans may result in high levels of pay, if the employee is “non-exempt”, they are still legally required to be paid overtime. Due to lawsuits being filed and the recovery of millions of dollars in back overtime wages, oil industry employers are beginning to make changes to the way field workers are classified for overtime pay purposes – changing them from exempt to non-exempt status. Once reclassified, they begin to pay time and a half for all hours over 40 per week. However, employers almost never offer to compensate employees for all of the back wages they were cheated out of. That is where law firms like ours, who focus on filing class and collective action lawsuits on behalf of oilfield workers, come into the picture. We take wage and hour cases on a contingent fee basis so there are no up-front costs to bring a claim, and no fees at all unless there is a recovery. Given the strict time limits for bringing these claims, procrastination can be costly.  Do not rely on your supervisor or Human Resources for this critical information.   If you have worked as a Well Tester, Well Test Engineer, Flowback Hand or a similar position and have any doubts as to your entitlement to overtime, contact the overtime pay experts at The Lore Law Firm for a free and confidential review. Call 1-866-559-0400, email mlore@overtime-flsa.com or  submit your information using our convenient  Case Evaluation  form for a FREE and CONFIDENTIAL review of your circumstances – because time is money.

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