After the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division investigated eight of their facilities in five states including Texas, the Shell Oil Co. and one of its marketing companies, Motiva Enterprises LLC, will now pay nearly $4.5 million to more than 2,600 workers in their chemical and refinery divisions for back overtime wages.
According to the Wage and Hour Division’s Houston District Office, the companies routinely violated the overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), by failing to pay workers for the time they spent attending mandatory pre-shift meetings, and for their failure to record the time workers spent attending these meetings.
After receiving reports of such behavior at the Houston District Office, the Division then coordinated their investigation with other investigations at other district offices, including those in San Francisco, Seattle, and New Orleans, in order to make sure all Shell and Motiva facilities and offices were in compliance. When they did so, they found a total of eight Shell Oil and Motiva refineries that required all workers to attend mandatory meetings before the start of their 12 hour shift, but refused to either account for the time or pay their workers. They found that both companies did not consider their mandatory meetings to be compensable. As a result, workers did not receive the overtime pay of time and one-half their regular rate for hours worked over 40 in a workweek, as is required by the FLSA.
The Department of Labor reiterated that every employer operating in the United States is legally required to pay workers for every hour there on the job, even those who work for an international oil company. If the employee is required to be on the job at any particular time, they are entitled to be paid. That includes before or after their regular shift, or on their scheduled days off. And if those hours push the worker beyond the 40 hour threshold, those hours must be paid at one and one half times their normal rate.
As a result of the Department of Labor’s actions under the FLSA, Shell and Motiva have each signed a settlement agreement that calls for thorough training of managers and supervisors, among others regarding requirements under the FLSA, paying particular attention to the accurate recording of work hours and proper payment to workers, especially with regard to mandatory activities before and after shifts.
Under the FLSA, which covers the vast majority of workers, employees must be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, and they are entitled to overtime pay for every hour they work beyond 40 within any seven day time period. The FLSA also places a requirement on all employers to maintain full and accurate records of employees’ hours, wages and conditions of employment. It also prohibits retaliation on the part of employers against employees who seek to protect their rights under the law.