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.
On June 10, 2019, the Supreme Court of the United States unanimously ruled that state wage and hour laws do not apply to offshore drilling workers where federal law addresses the relevant issue. In Parker Drilling Management Services v. Newton, No. 18-389, the Supreme Court answered the question of whether California’s laws governing the minimum wage and payment for “standby time” applied to workers on oil rigs in federal waters off the coast of California.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit recently held that a group of directional driller consultants were independent contractors, not employees, in large part due to their highly specialized skills, degree of control over their own projects, and ability to control their profits and analyzed losses.