For most oil and gas workers, pursuing a legal claim can feel like being a fish out of water. Unless you have a significant background in this complicated field, filing a wage or overtime lawsuit will feel like a foreign experience. Fortunately, employees do not have to navigate this process alone. It is important to understand some of the guiding principles related to wage and overtime claims.
10 Important Principles of a Wage and Overtime Claim
Understanding what constitutes a legitimate wage and overtime claim can be difficult. The following ten principles are at the root of most legal claims for overtime abuse by employers:
- The overtime rate is always time-and-a-half of your regular hourly rate. When you are entitled to receive overtime, every hour worked above 40 in a workweek must be paid at the overtime rate. Even if your normal pay is salary, the law requires that employers convert the pay to an hourly equivalent for purposes of paying overtime.
- Even if you did not put in for overtime or seek prior approval for the overtime you worked, you are still likely entitled to overtime compensation. As long as your employer knew or reasonably should have known that you were working overtime, you are entitled to this increased rate of pay. If an oil and gas employer tries to tell you that the company will not pay for overtime that is approved, it is important to understand that the employer is still on the hook for overtime if aware that the employee was working overtime.
- Failing to report the overtime does not impact any potential claims or your rights under the Fair Labor Standards Act. As an employee, it’s your job to perform your job obligations. It is your employer’s job to control the work. If the employer does not want you to work overtime, the employer must prohibit it. Simply failing to ask for overtime compensation is not enough for an employer to avoid its responsibilities for paying overtime under the law.
- Even if you are classified as an independent contractor, you may still be entitled to overtime pay. This is because many employees are misclassified as independent contractors by their employers. It is important not to simply write off your rights simply because your company has decided to call you an independent contractor.
- Compensatory time is not a substitute for overtime. Compensatory time, also known as comp time, is generally only allowed for government employees.
- You may be entitled to receive double your damages if you pursue a claim against your employer and win. When an employee pursues a wage and overtime claim against an employer and succeeds, there are various types of damages that the employee may be entitled to. One type of possible damages is known as liquidated damages. These damages are paid at double the amount of the unpaid wages due to the employee.
- There are two ways to enforce your rights under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The first is to bring a private lawsuit against the employer. The second is to contact the U.S. Department of Labor and initiate a claim. The Department of Labor may investigate, but it does not always prosecute. As a result, you stand a chance of not getting paid if you file your complaint with the Department of Labor.
- The best way to get started pursuing a lawsuit against your employer is to hire an attorney. It is important not to choose just any attorney, however. Lawyers with experience enforcing employee rights under the Fair Labor Standards Act and lawyers with experiencing representing oil and gas workers are often the best choice.
- Your employer is subject to strict penalties if you are fired in retaliation for pursing a wage or overtime claim. The Act makes it illegal for the employer to do so. Employees who have been fired in retaliation may be entitled to employment reinstatement, promotion, and the payment of lost wages. Employees may also be entitled to attorneys’ fees and court costs.
- Wage and Overtime lawsuits can sometimes be slow, but the result is hopefully worth it in the end. Each case is subject to different facts and circumstances and therefore it is difficult to estimate a length of time for the process. However, in general, legal proceedings are slow. How fast the case will make it to trial in the federal courts depends largely on the district and the judge at hand
If you were wrongfully denied the compensation that should have been paid to you, we are here to help protect your legal rights. We encourage you to reach out today for more information at (713) 425-6445.