Kansas court conditionally certifies oilfield overtime case

In Hancock v. Lario Oil & Gas Co., No. 2:19-cv-02140-JAR-KGG, (D.C. KS, August 1, 2019), the plaintiff Nathan Hancock brought a putative collective action complaint against the defendant Lario Oil and Gas Company under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) alleging violations of unpaid overtime. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant misclassified its employees as independent contractors in order to circumvent the FLSA’s overtime requirements. These employees were referred to as “company men” who were paid a day rate for a 12 hour shift, seven days a week and were not paid overtime for any hours worked over 12. The Court granted the plaintiff’s motion for conditional collective action certification and notice, conditionally certifying the class as:

“All oilfield workers who were or are employed by Defendant as a Wellsite/Drill Site Manager or “company man,” and who were classified as independent contractors and paid a day rate at any time within the three years preceding the present date.” 

When an action is brought under the FLSA as a collective action, all plaintiffs must give their consent in writing to become a part of the suit, and consent must be filed with the court. Prior to notice being sent to the putative plaintiffs, the Court has to conditionally certify the action as a collective action, a two-part inquiry.  First, if the aggrieved employees are similarly situated, the court may certify an opt-in collective action. Thiessen v. Gen. Elec. Capital Corp., 267 F.3d 1095, 1102, 1105 (10th Cir. 2001). In order to be similarly situated, the court determines whether substantial allegations exist that the putative class members were together victims of a single decision, policy or plan. Id. Second, the Court applies a striker standard to ensure that the plaintiff’s are actually similarly situated, and is usually prompted by the defendants filing a motion to decertify the class. Hancock v. Lario Oil & Gas Co., No. 2:19-cv-02140-JAR-KGG, (D.C. KS, August 1, 2019). 

The defendants argued that the plaintiffs were not similarly situated because the class members were not the defendant’s employees. Rather, the company men were employed by staffing companies who, in turn, contracted with the defendant. The defendants further alleged that language in the proposed notice was not specific enough to allow the class to understand the nature of the lawsuit. The Court found, however, that the notice was clear as to the nature of the lawsuit because the notice stated the case was brought under the FLSA for unpaid overtime. 

The defendants had other issues with the notice proceeders set out by the plaintiffs but the court said the procedures were sufficient. Specifically, the court found that there was good reason to allow notice to be sent via email or text message because the potential class members work at remote locations away from home. Courts in this Circuit have recognized that notice by email or text message is reasonable in today’s mobile society, particularly when employees are away from their homes for weeks at a time. Calvillo v. Bull Rogers, Inc., 267 F. Supp. 3d 1307, 1315 (D.N.M. 2017) (allowing notice via text message and email because “the law is on Plaintiff’s side”). Thus, the court conditionally certified the case.

If you work or within the past three years worked in the oil and gas sector and believe you were misclassified as an independent contractor or otherwise were denied overtime pay, consider speaking with an experienced FLSA overtime attorney. Josh Borsellino is an unpaid overtime attorney who understands the overtime laws. He fights for the rights of oilfield workers to recover their rightful overtime. He offers free consultations and can be reached at 817.908.9861 or 432.242.7118. 

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