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8 Things Oil Drilling Workers Should Know About California Labor Laws

While times are generally good for California workers employed in the oil and gas drilling business, primarily due to the surge in drilling activity using fracking technology, there are a few things that oilfield workers should be aware of to ensure that they are being paid in compliance with California’s rather unique and favorable wage and hour laws.

Oilfield workers frequently have huge demands placed on their time, including many hours of overtime, and should be aware of their wage and hour rights to make sure they are fully and properly  compensated. This is the case whether they work directly as an employee of the oil and gas company, through a staffing company or are treated as an independent contractor / 1099 worker.

oil pump at sunset

The Following are 8 Things Oil Drill Workers Should Know About California Labor Laws:

  1. First, be very skeptical of any pay scheme that does not pay an overtime premium of at least time and a half for all hours worked over 40 per week or 8 per day.   Ask questions and seek legal advice.
  2. Day Rate pay schemes can be legal, but still require the payment of overtime.  It is very common in the drilling business for workers to receive only their day rate for all hours worked and no additional pay for overtime.  This is illegal.
  3. Salaried workers must meet a strict set of “tests” to be exempt from the California overtime wage laws, including spending a majority of their time performing “exempt” duties.  This is different than federal law and often results in misclassification of jobs in California – meaning the job may not be entitled to overtime elsewhere, but is entitled to overtime while working in California.
  4. Hourly paid workers are always entitled to overtime pay, with very few exceptions.  If paid straight time for overtime, this is almost certainly illegal wage theft.
  5. The California Labor Code has a special pay provision relating to oilfield layoffs.  An employee engaged in the business of oil drilling who is laid off must be paid within 24 hours after discharge, excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays.
  6. Pay checks must have the name and address of a California bank/financial institution at which the check can be cashed without a fee.
  7. Pay stubs are required to contain the following information:
    • the employer’s name and address;
    • the employee’s name and only the last four digits of her social security number;
    • the inclusive dates for which the employee is being paid;
    • the gross wages earned;
    • the net wages earned;
    • the total hours worked for nonexempt employees;
    • for employees paid on a piece-rate basis, the applicable piece rate and units earned;
    • all applicable hourly rates; and
    • all deductions.
  8. There are different statutes of limitations under California and Federal labor laws that apply to claims to recover unpaid overtime.  In most cases, California applies a 4 year statute of limitation and Federal law applies a 2 year statute of limitations.  Only the filing of a lawsuit stops the clock on these claims – complaining to your employer and/or the Department of Labor does not.

Oil & Gas Drilling Field Workers are Legally Entitled to Overtime Pay

Keep in mind that the general rule is that almost all oil and gas drilling field workers in California are legally entitled to overtime pay under state and/or federal labor laws – whether they are paid a salary, hourly or a day-rate.  This includes (but is not limited to) the following types of jobs:

  • Field Service Tech / Field Service Supervisor
  • Mud Logger
  • LWD / MWD Field Engineer
  • Solids Control Tech
  • Closed Loop Operator
  • Pumper
  • Derrick / Floor / Lease Hand
  • Roustabout
  • Rig Monitor
  • Top Drive Technician

Are You Being Paid Overtime?

So, if you are not paid an overtime premium, start asking questions to find out if the pay scheme is legal.  If it’s not legal, you may be entitled to collect up to double the amount of your unpaid back overtime wages – which could be $10,000s. Given the significant dollar amounts at stake and the strict time limits imposed by the overtime pay laws, procrastination can be costly.  Do not rely on your boss or Human Resources for this critical information.


If you 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. 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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