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How collective lawsuits work in unpaid overtime cases

Oil and gas workers work tirelessly day in and day out, often times not getting paid (or not getting paid at the legally-required overtime rate) for all their hours worked. The unfortunate reality is many employers know they are underpaying their workers and do so simply to shave money off of their labor costs – companies with large workforces can save hundreds of thousands of dollars by denying their workers overtime pay.  Sadly, as long as enough of their workers do not take legal action, it makes financial sense for the company to continue to break the overtime laws. The Department of Labor, the federal agency in charge of enforcing overtime laws, is understaffed and does not have the budget or manpower to find and fix every overtime violation in this country.  That is where private overtime attorneys come in – the federal overtime laws allow private attorneys to represent clients and seek unpaid wages, and equal amount in liquidated or “double” damages, and attorney’s fees and court costs.  

When one worker is misclassified and denied overtime pay, there are often more people who also have been denied overtime in the same way by the same company. Lawsuits that encompass dozens, hundreds or even thousands of individuals can be filed on behalf by one person for the entire group of similarly situated workers. Known as a collective action lawsuit, a plaintiff sues a defendant or a number of defendants (see link to consulting firm blog here) on behalf of a group or a collective of individuals. All individuals that agree to join the lawsuit are required to fill out a FLSA consent form showing their intention to join the lawsuit. Collective actions carry some advantages including:

  • Provide recovery to plaintiffs who otherwise could not afford an attorney;
  • Reduce the number of lawsuits filed in court, thereby clearing courts’ dockets;
  • Encourage settlement from the defendant; and 
  • Reduce the cost of litigation because one lawsuit is more cost efficient than multiple lawsuits. 

A recent case demonstrating the use of collective action lawsuits is Gabrielson et al v. EOG Resources, Inc., No. 4:16-cv-01826 (S.D.Tex. June 24, 2016). Back in 2016, a former oilfield worker sued EOG Resources Inc., a Houston based oil and gas company, for unpaid overtime. Id. The worker said he was paid a flat daily rate for all his hours even though he often worked 12 hour days, seven days a week. He was never compensated at time and a half for all his hours worked over forty.  He worked as a rigger for the oilfield equipment and ran fracking operations. He sought a collective action lawsuit that encompassed other oilfield workers who worked just like him but were not paid overtime. Multiple other riggers who worked at EOG filed their consents to join the lawsuit, and the case ultimately settled.  

Are you an oilfield worker who has worked long, hard hours and been denied overtime pay? Do you have other individuals you worked with that have experienced the same thing? If so, consider speaking with an experienced overtime attorney today. Josh Borsellino is an experienced overtime attorney that workers with oilfield workers to file individual or collective actions to recover their unpaid overtime. He works on a contingency basis so you owe him nothing unless there is a recovery. Call him today at 817.908.9861 or 432.242.7118.