In the first ruling from a federal appellate court examining COVID-19–related layoffs and the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals held in Easom v. US Well Services, Inc., No. 21-20202 (June 15, 2022), that a mass layoff resulting in part from the economic impact of COVID-19 did not qualify for the “natural disaster” exemption to the WARN Act’s sixty-day notice requirement for mass layoffs. The court also held that for an employer to rely on the exemption, the mass layoff (or plant closing) must be the “direct result” of the natural disaster. This is an important ruling for employers in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas.
On June 15, 2022, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit issued a decision limiting the reach of the emergency response provisions of 29 C.F.R. § 1910.120, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response Standard—the so-called “HazWoper” (or “HAZWOPER”) standard.
The issue of the proper application of the highly compensated employee exemption under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), as it applies to employees paid on a “day-rate” basis in the oil and gas industry, has been a hotly debated issue in recent years, especially in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.
On August 31, 2020, the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued four opinion letters, one of which, Opinion Letter FLSA2020-11, addressed whether certain employees in the oilfield services industry were exempt from the overtime requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The specific question answered by the DOL in FLSA2020-11 involved truck drivers of an oilfield waste-removal company and the “retail or service establishment” overtime exemption of the FLSA (29 U.S.C. § 207(i), better known as the “Section 7(i) exemption”).
On July 7, 2020, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued COVID-19 control and prevention guidance for oil and gas industry workers and employers. The guidance supplements OSHA’s interim guidance for the general workforce.
On June 25, 2020, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued Inspection Procedures for the Respirable Crystalline Silica Standards. The new procedures, 124 pages in length, went into effect immediately.