Last week, a hydraulic fracturing equipment supplier was hit with a putative class action lawsuit in federal court in Pennsylvania, alleging violations of state and federal wage and hour law. The employee who brought the lawsuit claims that her employer violated the law by failing to pay her and other employees for time spent in mandatory safety meetings and time spent in other "off-the-clock" activities that the plaintiff claims were "integral and indispensable" to job duties before and after shifts.
The plaintiff in the Pennsylvania case seeks to represent approximately 50 employees that she claims were subject to the challenged pay practices. Specifically, the plaintiff alleges that the company violated laws related to payment of earned wages and overtime, as well as technical recordkeeping requirements.
The lawsuit seeks to recover damages from the company, several affiliated companies and other named defendants, as well as several unnamed defendants that the complaint describes as principals, officers, managers and/or members of the company. Under the FLSA, managers and officers of companies may be sued individually for wage and hour claims if they are alleged to have control over the claimed violation.
The case is venued in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania (case number 2:13-cv-00640).
Recently, companies in the oil and gas industry, from land brokers to mudders to pipeline companies, have been facing increased scrutiny from employees as well as the federal agency that enforces wage and hour issues, the U.S. Department of Labor. In 2012, the U.S. Department of Labor announced an enforcement initiative specifically looking at pay practices in the oil and gas industry to ensure that its pay practices kept up with the industry's rapid growth.
Practices that are being scrutinized include:
- Worker classification (e.g. independent contractor vs. employee)
- Exempt/non-exempt classification/failure to pay overtime to non-exempt employees
- Off-the-clock work