Ardent Companies Inc. has agreed to pay $2.325 million to settle a class action lawsuit filed by oil platform workers who claimed they weren’t paid for on-call time after the end of their daily shifts. The class action settlement against the ExxonMobil contractor would net each proposed class member an average of roughly $14,800.
The case highlights the large potential for wage and overtime claims, as well as unique legal issues and questions related to labor law jurisdiction over workers on offshore platforms.
About the Case
The labor lawsuit – Orozco v. Ardent Companies Inc. – stems from hourly workers who performed job duties on an offshore drilling platform in California. Workers, who worked in “hitches,” or multi-day shifts, would begin and end their work shifts on land, and would travel by helicopter or boat to the offshore platform. Ardent required them to use company-provided transportation, and workers claimed they were unable to leave the offshore platform during their multiple-day shifts.
While claimants worked in 12-hour shifts, they were also on-call during the 12 hours they were off. The lawsuit claims Ardent failed to account for those 12 hours of on-call time, as well as time spent on land or when traveling to and from the drilling platform. The result, the suit alleged, was that workers did not get paid in accordance to overtime and minimum wage laws, and did not receive proper meal and rest breaks as provided for by law.
FLSA & State Labor Law
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is federal law that enforces a number of workplace and employer regulations, including those related to:
- Hourly minimum wage ($7.25 federally);
- Time and a half overtime pay (time and one-half the regular rate of pay) for any hours worked in excess of 40 hours in a workweek.
Per the FLSA, “hours worked,” includes:
- Time workers are required to be on duty;
- When workers must be on the employer’s property or any other prescribed workplace;
- From the start of the work day’s first principal activity to the end of the last workday’s activity.
In addition to the FLSA, the case also implicated California state labor law. Though both are intended to protect workers, state law defines hours worked differently, as:
- All time where workers are subject to employer control; and
- Time employees are “suffered or permitted” to work, regardless of whether they’re required to do so.
Per state law, workers subject to “employer control,” or who can’t leave their place of work, don’t have to be working during those periods in order to be entitled to compensation. This includes time spent sleeping. California also mandates overtime premium pay for time which exceeds 8 hours in a single day or 40 hours in a single week, double time for hours worked following that, meal and rest periods when working beyond a certain number of hours, and a higher minimum wage than the federal minimum.
As this case shows, the question of whether state or federal labor law applies is an important one: California, in this scenario, provides for a more substantial amount of unpaid wages, as well as broader wage protections.
Though both laws protect workers and help them recover the money to which they’re entitled, courts have had differing opinions, especially since offshore platforms are tethered to the seabed not technically within the state’s territorial boundaries. The U.S. Supreme Court will address the matter in its 2019 docket.
Wage and Overtime Questions? Call BCH: (888) 367-7160
Bailey Cowan Heckaman PLLC has represented many workers in matters of the FLSA, wage and overtime claims, and other employment law cases. As a Houston-based firm representing clients across the nation, we’re available to address labor law issues involving all types of workers – including those with challenging cases related to offshore and platform operations.
Contact us to speak with an attorney about your potential claim. Consultations are free and confidential.