It's well-documented that, in the oil and gas industry, it can be all-too-common for companies to fail to fairly compensate their workers, especially when it comes to overtime wages. A new report from Rocky Mountain PBS, however, illustrates just how pronounced the problem is—especially in Texas, where wage lawsuits against oil and gas companies have increased ten-fold in the last five years.
The prevailing perspective that oil workers (especially in Texas or in "boom" regions like North Dakota) are always well-compensated for their work clashes with this dramatic trend. "We have found cases where workers were not even paid the minimum wage, because they're working so many hours," Tess Castilleja of the U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division. "So the idea that they're being highly compensated, in some cases, they're not."
In 2012, the U.S. Department of Labor took note of the growing number of wage lawsuits in the energy sector and began its own efforts to recover the wages that were left unpaid. They've recovered a staggering $40 million in wages for deserving workers since 2012, while private lawsuits continue to rise, as well. In 2015, a single company—Haliburton—was found to owe $18 million in unpaid wages to about a thousand workers (roughly $18,000 per worker).
"The Way the Industry Operates"
In response to the finding of the $18 million in unpaid wages, Haliburton responded with "Throughout this process, Halliburton has worked earnestly and cooperatively with the U.S. Department of Labor to equitably resolve this situation." To many watching the industry, this nonchalant attitude towards shorting workers compensation isn't new, it even appears to be standard practice.
"It's the way the industry operates," Colorado wage and hour attorney Brian Gonzalez told PBS. "They (oil and gas companies) see what their competitors are doing and they just do the same thing and no one stops to say, 'Hey, this isn't really compliant with the law.'" According to Gonzalez, shorting workers proper wages is a deliberate business decision—possibly because, even if the workers take legal action, they usually only recover a small portion of what they are actually owed.
If you are a greater Houston oil or gas worker who has not been properly compensated by your employer, than you may have the ground to seek the wages you are owed. At Wyly & Cook, PLLC our Houston wage and hour attorneys have countless times stood for these workers and aggressively pursued the wages they deserved. Call our firm today to speak with our experienced wage and hour litigation attorneys, Brad T. Wyly and Kelly E. Cook, about your legal options.
See our Wage & Hour Dispute website for more information.
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