Oil field jobs are some of the most dangerous and physically demanding in the country. They often require workers to lift, push, and pull heavy object, operate machinery, and drive commercial vehicles for long shifts over many consecutive days. Because the oil and gas industry is so profitable and because these jobs are extremely difficult, oil companies often pay their employees high wages compared to what those employees could make in other industries. It is not surprising, then, that workers from around the country have flocked to the oil field for jobs, particularly when other employment is hard to come by as a result of a depressed economy.
However, some companies looking to maximize profit and cut costs may be shorting employees on pay. Oil field workers in Texas have filed two lawsuits (described in more detail here and here) in the past month, accusing their employers of violating the Fair Labor Standards Act (sometimes referred to as “FLSA”). The lawsuits allege that these companies have refused to pay their employees overtime, even when they worked over 40 hours per week. The Fair Labor Standards Act is a federal law administered and enforced by the U.S. Department of Labor. The law requires employers to follow basic rules regarding, among other things, overtime pay for government and some (non-exempt) private sector employees. One of those rules is that overtime has to be paid for each hour worked in addition to a 40-hour workweek for non-exempt hourly employees. In their initial filings with the courts, plaintiffs in the Texas cases are requesting unpaid wages, attorney fees, and other relief the presiding court may decide is appropriate.
Texas produces more crude oil than any other state and has a well-established economy centered on that industry, though oil and gas production also makes up a significant portion of the economies of North Dakota, Wyoming, and many other states. Large oil and gas companies (many of which are based out of Texas) operate in multiple states where oil and gas production is booming.