Federal court denies certification in oilfield case

A federal judge in Amarillo has denied a motion for certification under the FLSA in an oilfield overtime case. The lawsuit was filed against Fieldcore Services Solutions, LLC and Granite Services, International, Inc. by a former employee as a collective action. The plaintiff worked as a technical field advisor (“TFA”). In his motion to certify, the plaintiff asked the Court to provide notice to proposed putative collective-action members consisting of all Defendant’s TFAs who worked in Texas during the past three years and were paid under the XHOUR pay practice. FieldCore employed about 300 TFAs in Texas over the last three years in over 80 locations. Under Fieldcore’s XHOUR plan, an employee was paid a predetermined annual salary. An employee under the Payment Plan receives his salary each week, regardless of hours worked. An employee can earn compensation on top of his salary if he exceeds his annual billable-hour goal. An employee who exceeds his annual goal is given a predetermined hourly rate for each billable hour worked more than his goal. The Court first found that the members of the proposed class were similarly situated, noting that they were paid similarly. However, the Court denied the certification motion, finding that Fieldcore’s highly compensated exemption defense could apply to some but not all class members. To qualify for the HCE exemption, an employee must (1) earn “total annual compensation of at least $107,432,”[4] of which at least $684 per week is paid as a salary, and (2) “customarily and regularly perform[] any one or more of the exempt duties or responsibilities of an executive, administrative or professional employee.” According to the Court, some of the class members made more than $107,432 annually, and some did not, and thus some could have been subject to the administrative exemption and others not. As such, the plaintiff’s motion to certify the case as a collective action was denied.  This is not a ruling on the merits.  

It is this author’s opinion that this motion for certification was wrongly decided. The Court could have easily bifurcated the class into a subclass of those who made more than $107,432 annually and another subclass who did not. Alternatively, the Court could have certified a class of only those who made more than $107,432 annually. This would have eliminated any concerns as to whether some of the class members would be subject to the HCE exemption. Instead, the 300 TFAs who were employed by Fieldcore in the past three years will be denied the ability to receive notice of this lawsuit. That, in this author’s opinion, is a miscarriage of justice. 

If you have worked in the oil and gas sector at any time in the past three years and have been paid a salary, day rates, or otherwise refused overtime pay, consider contacting an experienced overtime attorney to learn of your legal rights. Josh Borsellino (whose firm is not involved in the Fieldcore case) is a Texas attorney that regularly represents oilfield workers on claims for unpaid overtime. Call Josh today at 817.908.9861 or email him here for a free, confidential, no-obligation consultation of your overtime pay matter.