Halliburton ordered to pay $18.3M in overtime

UPDATED: Injured football player ‘responding’, but still in critical condition
September 30, 2015
Alfreda Richoux
October 6, 2015
UPDATED: Injured football player ‘responding’, but still in critical condition
September 30, 2015
Alfreda Richoux
October 6, 2015

Oil services giant Halliburton is required to pay nearly $18.3 million in overtime owed to more than 1,000 employees nationwide, following a U.S. Labor Department investigation.

Neither the DOL nor Halliburton could confirm whether the workers affected are employed in or from the Houma area or vicinity.

But the decision could have effects for all Halliburton workers because it was based on an employee classification system that federal investigators determined to be flawed.

A Labor Department statement called the $18,292,557 it has ordered dispensed one of “the largest recoveries of overtime wages in recent years.”

Halliburton, the Labor Department announced, has agreed to pay the sum to 1,016 employees nationwide.

A Halliburton spokesperson could not immediately be reached for comment. But an un-named spokeswoman told industry publications last week that the company’s misclassification of employees was discovered during an audit by the company.

“Throughout this process, Halliburton has worked earnestly and cooperatively with the U.S. Department of Labor to equitably resolve this situation,” is the statement that was attributed to the spokeswoman.

The department’s Wage and Hour Division investigated Halliburton as part of an ongoing, multi-year compliance initiative in the oil and gas industry.

“The Department of Labor takes very seriously its responsibility to ensure workers receive the wages they have earned. This settlement will put millions of dollars where they belong – in the pockets of hardworking people and their families,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. “Employers who don’t pay their employees the wages they have earned don’t just hurt their workers, they undercut employers who play by the rules. That’s why we work every day to help level the playing field.”

Investigators found Halliburton incorrectly categorized employees in 28 job positions as exempt from overtime. The company did not pay overtime to these salaried employees – working as field service representatives, pipe recovery specialists, drilling tech advisors, perforating specialists and reliability tech specialists – when they worked more than 40 hours in a workweek, in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. The company also failed to keep accurate records of hours worked by these employees, the Labor Department determined.

“The Wage and Hour Division’s ongoing education and enforcement initiative addresses changes in the fast-growing oil and gas industry,” the Department of Labor statement reads. “The agency seeks to ensure industry employers comply with labor laws. The oil and gas industry also depends on many related businesses – trucking, lodging, water and stone haulers, staffing companies and others – to supports its operation. Working with industry leaders, employers and trade associations, the division offers training and education to promote compliance and awareness of FLSA requirements. By doing so, it is encouraging industry leaders to serve as models for industry-wide compliance. At the same time, the division is informing workers and community groups about the initiative, their rights as workers, the division’s services and its availability to review and investigate worker complaints regarding violations.”

Betty Campbell, the Wage and Hour Division’s southwest regional administrator, said the agency uses a combination of enforcement and education to help employers comply with federal law and worker to be protected.

“Ignorance is never an excuse for violating the law,” Campbell said. “The Wage and Hour Division offers a great deal of compliance assistance and stands ready to help workers and employers alike. We welcome and appreciate the cooperation of employers, like Halliburton, as we continue our investigations and educate employers about how wage violations hurt their industry and our nation’s economy.”

Founded in 1919, Halliburton is one of the world’s largest providers of products and services to the energy industry. The company has more than 70,000 employees, representing 140 nationalities in more than 80 countries worldwide.

Simply paying an employee a salary does not necessarily mean the employee is not eligible for overtime, the Labor Department statement says.

The FLSA provides an exemption from both minimum wage and overtime pay requirements for individuals employed in bona fide executive, administrative, professional and outside sales positions, as well as certain computer employees. To qualify for the exemption, a Labor Department document says, employees generally must meet certain tests regarding their job duties and be paid on a salary basis at not less than $455 per week.

“Job titles do not determine exempt status. In order for an exemption to apply, an employee’s specific job duties and salary must meet all the requirements of the department’s regulations,” the statement reads.

The FLSA requires that covered, non-exempt employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour for all hours worked, plus time and one-half their regular rates, including commissions, bonuses and incentive pay, for hours worked beyond 40 per week, an agency spokesman said.