Hydraulic fracturing, commonly referred to a fracking, is a drilling technique used for extracting oil or natural gas from deep underground. It is estimated that more than 4 million oil and gas related wells have been drilled in the United States in recent years. Fracking has become a major industry, which employs tens of thousands of workers across the country.
Recently, Ensign Energy Services, Inc. agreed to pay a group of salaried workers who were responsible for measuring certain metrics during the drilling process a whopping $1.8 million for unpaid overtime wages. The lawsuit alleged that the salaried workers were misclassified as exempt from overtime. In a three-year span, nearly 60 workers filed complaints claiming they were misclassified and owed overtime wages for services they performed for the operation.
The Defendant, Ensign Energy Services, Inc. is a Canadian company that provides oilfield services for the North American and international market. They claim to be among the world’s strongest, fastest-growing energy services companies.
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires that non-exempt employees be paid at a rate of one and one half their regular hourly rates. However, the FLSA also provides for a number of exemptions, many of which require that the employee be paid on a salary basis to be eligible for the exemption. Although the plaintiffs in this lawsuit were paid on a salary, they did not meet the duty based requirements that go along with the exemptions. Accordingly, the plaintiffs argued that they had been misclassified as exempt from overtime premium pay.
Ensign declined to comment on the settlement.
Of the $1.8 million to be paid in the wage and hour settlement, $693,000 will be paid to the plaintiffs’ attorneys for fees and costs. The federal district judge in Denver, Colorado believed the settlement to be fair and reasonable, given the challenges each side faced if the case were to continue in litigation.
A plaintiff in a wage and hour lawsuit brought under the Fair Labor Standards Act can seek back wages and liquidated (double) damages if the violation of the Act was willful. The prevailing plaintiffs, such as the plaintiffs in this case, are also entitled to have their reasonable attorney fees and costs paid by the employer that violated the Act.
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