In a recent announcement garnering national attention, the U.S. Department of Labor has announced that it reached a settlement with oil and gas employer Halliburton. The company was the subject of an investigation into is wage and overtime compensation practices. It was ultimately found to have been in violation of federal law as a result of misclassifying workers as being ineligible for overtime pay as well as failing to properly document the hours worked. Thousands of employees throughout the country may be impacted by this settlement. The following are helpful answers to four important questions relating to the settlement.
No, you do not have to accept the DOL settlement offer. While at first glance a nearly $20 million settlement offer may sound astronomical, the reality is that the figure is far smaller when spread across the large number of employees who may be eligible to receive payment. It therefore may be a relief for oil and gas workers impacted by Halliburton’s illegal compensation tactics to know that you do not have to accept the settlement. Workers who may be eligible will receive a letter from the Department of Labor. If you receive such a letter and do not wish to accept the amount of money that is being offered, you do not have to do so. Sadly, the Department of Labor has a history of accepting settlement agreements with employers who violate wage and overtime laws where the settlement amount does not offer the full value of the wage claims. Before accepting or declining the settlement offer, we strongly encourage you to consult with an experienced attorney who can provide you with the guidance that you need for the unique facts and circumstances surrounding your claim.
If you may be entitled to receive compensation as a result of wage or overtime violations by Halliburton, you essentially have the following options:
If you decide to fight for more compensation and pursue a legal claim directly against Halliburton, you will likely need to obtain assistance from a knowledgeable legal professional. Halliburton is a large corporation with a team of lawyers and other experts on its side. It is crucial that you attempt to level the playing field by seeking legal representation of your own.
The U.S. Department of Labor conducted an investigation into Halliburton, an oil and gas service provider, as part of an ongoing compliance initiative in the oil and gas industry in the Southwest and Northeast. Unfortunately, it appears that the settlement agreement with Halliburton that was recently announced only covered a rather limited period of time. The investigation appears to have analyzed the time period between May 2013 and May, 2015. As a result, the settlement may not include wage violations that occurred before May 2013. Workers who choose to pursue their own claim against the company may be entitled to compensation for unpaid overtime or wages that covers a longer period of time. Your attorney can provide valuable guidance on this issue.
Double damages are also known as liquidated damages. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, employees who pursue a claim against their employer for a violation of the Act and win may be entitled to liquidated damages. In cases like these, liquidated damages take the place of interest paid on the compensation that was not rightfully paid when it should have been. Liquidated damages typically equal double the amount of unpaid back wages. Employers can usually only avoid having to pay liquidated damages if they can demonstrate that they acted in good faith despite their failure to pay proper compensation. The employer must also show that it had a reasonable basis to believe that it did not need to pay for the unpaid time period. Most importantly, it should be noted that liquidated damages are the rule, not the exception, when it comes to violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Unfortunately, the Department of Labor’s settlement with Halliburton did not include liquidated damages.
If you are having difficulty deciding what to do about the Halliburton settlement, it is certainly understandable. We are here to help you understand your legal rights and decide what is best for your situation. We encourage you to reach out today for more information at (713) 425-6445.