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What are the steps in an oilfield overtime lawsuit?

If you have questions about overtime pay, the legal landscape may seem confusing.  This article will attempt to explain the various steps in an overtime lawsuit.  

The first few steps in a lawsuit seeking overtime are:

  1. The filing of the complaint, which sets forth the allegations of the employee against the employer.  The employer is then served with the complaint, and has a certain amount of time to file an answer to the lawsuit. 
  2. Once that occurs, the Court will typically enter a scheduling order setting various deadlines including the trial date. 
  3. After that, the parties are given time to exchange document requests and provide relevant documents to one another, and to take depositions, in which witnesses are asked questions under oath. 
  4. When discovery is completed, either side may file what is known as a summary judgment motion. Summary judgment is an order entered by a court for one party against the other without the need for a full trial. Under the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, which governs summary judgment, in order for a movant to succeed on a motion for summary judgment, the movant must show: a. that there is no genuine issue or dispute as to any material fact that was alleged, and b. that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law

When courts are presented with summary judgment motions, they look to see if undisputed facts warrant the moving party to prevail on a legal issue. Common summary judgment issues include whether the employee was exempt from overtime pay, and whether the employee was properly classified as an independent contractor (if that was the case).  

In a summary judgment motion on the exemption issue, the employer bears the burden of proof to show that the employee was under an exemption, which would not entitle the employee to overtime pay. Meza v. Intelligent Mexican Mktg., Inc., 720 F.3d 577, 581 (5th Cir. 2013). Generally, whether an employee is exempt from the FLSA’s overtime compensation provisions is a question of fact. Lott v. Howard Wilson Chrysler-Plymouth, Inc., 203 F.3d 326, 330 (5th Cir. 2000).  The employee can also ask the Court to find as a matter of law that no exemption applies to him or her.   

Either side could also can also move for partial summary judgment. Common partial summary judgment issues include whether the owner of the company is liable for the FLSA violations of the company and whether the alleged violations by the employer were made in good faith or were willful.  Either party may also seek partial summary judgment if the method for calculating damages is at issue. 

For example, in Mascagni v. Schlumberger Tech Corp., Case No. 16-439 (W.D. La, August 22, 2017), the Defendant alleged that Plaintiff failed to establish a willful violation of the FLSA, and all claims arising more than two years prior to the complaint should be dismissed. The Plaintiff claimed that the Defendant knowingly, willfully or with reckless disregard carried out this illegal pattern or practice of failing to pay overtime. Id. It is important to note that the Plaintiff must show significant probative evidence to support his or her claim that the Defendant acted willfully by not paying the employee overtime. Id. Ultimately, the court held that partial summary judgment was appropriate and applied a two year statute of limitations to the Plaintiff’s claims.  Once summary judgment issues are determined, the parties will then proceed to a trial if it is necessary.  

Not being paid overtime is unacceptable and illegal. If you believe that you have a claim to recover your unpaid overtime, speak with an attorney that will fight for you. Josh Borsellino is a licensed Texas Attorney that offers free consultations to employees seeking overtime pay. He can be reached at 817.908.9861 or 432.242.7118.