Misclassification of oilfield workers as independent contractors

In the oil and gas industry, employers have a financial incentive to misclassify their workers as independent contractors despite the fact that the workers work full-time for the employer and should be classified as employees. Oilfield workers work long, hard hours and deserve to be paid properly for every hour that they work. A recent case filed in the District of North Dakota involves allegations that oilfield workers have been misclassified as independent contractors in violation of federal overtime laws. 

In September of this year, an oilfield worker filed a collective action complaint against its former employer, ConocoPhillips, which sought unpaid overtime compensation and other damages allegedly owed under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). Duffy, et al. v. ConocoPhillips, 1:19-cv-00184-CRH, (N.D., Sept. 3, 2019) (the “Lawsuit”). The complaint alleged that ConocoPhillips misclassified its oilfield workers as independent contractors and paid them a daily rate with no overtime compensation. Under the FLSA, employers are required to pay their non-exempt employees time and a half their regular rate of pay for all hours worked over 40 hours in a given work week. 

ConocoPhillips is an oil and gas exploration and production company that provides services to many customers. The plaintiff alleged that: 

  • ConocoPhillips allegedly exercised control over all aspects of the plaintiff’s job; 
  • ConocoPhillips did not require any substantial investment by the plaintiff in order for the plaintiff to perform his job nor did the plaintiff have an opportunity for profit or loss in ConocoPhillips; 
  • There was no requirement that the plaintiff and other workers possess any particularized skill in order to perform their job;
  • ConocoPhillips controlled the hours that the plaintiff had to work, including the tools used and pay rates that the plaintiff was paid at. 

To date, there is no determination of liability – the court in the Lawsuit has not ruled on the merits of the allegations.  The attorneys at Borsellino, P.C. are not involved in the Lawsuit.  

Often times, employers misclassify their employees as independent contractors in order to avoid paying employment taxes, workers’ compensation, benefits, and overtime. This may be a violation of the FLSA.  If you are an oilfield worker who has been classified as an independent contractor, consider speaking with an attorney today. Josh Borsellino is a FLSA attorney that understands the rules and regulations regarding the FLSA. He offers free consultations and can be reached at 817.908.9861 or 432.242.7118. 

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