According to a story from the Dallas Morning News, Pioneer Natural Resources has eliminated 877 jobs since the start of 2019, which makes up more than 27% of its workforce. Pioneer earned $978 million in 2018, has had a profitable first quarter of 2019 and its oil and gas revenue is up significantly, but its stock price has lagged and according to its CEO the company is eager to show Wall Street that its “cost structure” can “create value for our investors over the long-term.”
While drilling in the Permian Basin has boomed over the past several years, Pioneer’s layoffs show that workers in the oil and gas sector may not be immune from layoffs, as publicly-traded companies are under constant and intense pressure from stockholders to show improved profitability, and workforce costs are heavily scrutinized.
Workers that have been laid off should make sure that they understand the overtime laws so that they can evaluate their legal rights. Workers who have accepted a buyout and signed separation agreements or releases should still educate themselves about unpaid overtime – unlike other claims that can be released by voluntary agreement, unpaid overtime claims generally cannot be, meaning that workers may still be able to assert claims for unpaid overtime even if they signed documents saying they would not sue their former employer.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which is the appellate court that oversees appeals of federal cases in Texas, held in 2015 that overtime claims cannot be released even if a legal document states that a worker is releasing “any and all claims” against the company. See Bodle v. TXL Morg. Corp., 788 F.3d 159 (5th Cir. 2015). In Bodle, the Fifth Circuit stated, “The general rule establishes that FLSA claims (for unpaid overtime, in this case) cannot be waived. Accordingly, many courts have held that, in the absence of supervision by the Department of Labor or scrutiny from a court, a settlement of an FLSA claim is prohibited.” The Court went on to hold that the parties never discussed overtime compensation or the FLSA in their settlement negotiations, thus there was no factual development of the number of unpaid overtime hours nor of compensation due for unpaid overtime, and therefore the release did not waive the claims for overtime.
This case illustrates that anyone who has been laid off, even those that signed broad general releases as part of a separation agreement, should quickly determine whether they may have a claim for unpaid overtime. If you have questions about unpaid overtime, talk to an experienced overtime attorney. Josh Borsellino is a Texas attorney that represents workers on claims for unpaid overtime. Josh used to work for a large corporate law firm and has filed suit against some of the largest oil and gas companies in the world on behalf of workers with unpaid overtime claims. Josh can be reached at 817.908.9861 or 432.242.7118 for a free consultation.