Crash Leads to Oil & Gas WARN Act, FLSA Complaints
The oil and gas boom created a lot of great opportunities for a lot of people, but the oil and gas crisis that has developed because of the price crash over the past year has created a lot of other problems. Unfortunately, the resultant layoffs have created another crisis, in that the number of complaints about violations of employment laws have also spiked in that time.
The total number of complaints filed under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) in the Southern and Western Districts of Texas set records in 2015, and based on the rates seen in the first two months of 2016, that record may be shattered this year. And while the Northern and Eastern Districts saw less of a spike last year, that looks to be changing this year, so far.
One problem is the industry’s practice of using what they call “independent contractors,” in an attempt to try to avoid paying overtime and benefits like health insurance but also to avoid having to pay taxes. In many cases, workers have been misclassified and should have been considered employees.
Also troubling is the increase in the number of violations of the Texas Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, which requires any employer with 100 or more employees to provide workers at least 60 days’ notice before any mass layoff or plant closure. The purpose of the law is to give workers a reasonable time to look for other work. Unfortunately, the increase in WARN Act violation filings recently indicates that many companies have decided to simply ignore the law. In one extreme case, a complaint suggests that a worker was told he was laid off right after driving more than 1,200 miles to North Dakota for his company.
It is important to keep in mind that many workers in the Texas oil and gas industry were asked to come here to work. While here, they tended to work many 12-hour shifts and l80-hour weeks under some of the most difficult and stressful conditions imaginable. Unfortunately, a great many employers are simply deciding that it’s no longer financially feasible for them to continue drilling, so they simply let workers go and leave their families in a serious financial bind, without the 60 days’ notice they should have been given.
One problem is that many employers don’t understand their duties under the FLSA and the WARN Act and the workers often don’t even realize they’re covered. There are also many employers who understand the rules, but their desire to increase profits is so strong, they see fit to exploit their employees and do things they’re not allowed to do. All workers should know that, if their employer broke the law, they may be entitled to back pay and other compensation, which could make a significant difference to that worker and their loved ones.
If you either work or used to work in the Texas oil and gas industry and you suspect you may have been unfairly treated, please contact the Texas Employment Litigation Specialists at the Hill Law Firm as soon as possible. We have experience handling cases related to the WARN Act and the FLSA, and we know how to act quickly to protect your rights and preserve any potential claims you may have against your employer.