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OFS Workers Again File Complaint in Pennsylvania Seeking ‘Unpaid’ Wages

In yet another allegation against the oilfield services sector, two workers have filed a lawsuit seeking class action certification against Houston-based Express Energy Services LLC, alleging that the company failed to properly pay "hundreds" of its employees overtime wages over the last three years.

The complaint was filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. It seeks "unpaid" overtime wages, damages and court costs for employees who worked for the company in Ohio and Pennsylvania. The plaintiffs allege that the company violated state labor laws and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The lawsuit does not provide an estimate of how much backwages could be due.

It is unclear if the plaintiffs are still employed by privately-owned Express, which has operations in all the country's major onshore basins. Express has five field and regional sales offices scattered throughout Appalachia in Eastern Ohio, Northeast and Southwest Pennsylvania.

The company could not be reached to comment about the lawsuit on Tuesday. It has also not responded to the complaint, which was filed Monday. The workers, who said they often logged 84 hours per week during the period in question, were paid a salary and a bonus with no overtime for hours worked beyond 40. The lawsuit claims that potential class members were denied overtime wages under one of two payroll systems that violated state and federal labor laws.

Workers were either paid a base salary plus a day rate/bonus, or an hourly rate plus a bonus, according to the lawsuit. In both cases, the bonus was not included in the regular rate calculation for overtime, the complaint said. Under the FLSA, all pay received by employees during the workweek must be included when determining the overtime premium, which is factored as time and one-half of the regular rates for every hour worked beyond 40 hours per week.

"As the controlling law makes clear, defendant owes back overtime wages to hundreds of these employees, all of whom work long hours each workweek," the lawsuit said.

The complaint is the latest against oilfield service providers and other subcontractors working in natural gas and oil fields across the country. In December, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) reached an agreement with several undisclosed subcontractors to secure $4.5 million in back wages for 5,310 employees in Pennsylvania and West Virginia (see Shale DailyDec. 10, 2014). Last week, the DOL announced that Halliburton Co. had agreed to pay $18.3 million in overtime wages to 1,016 employees across the country (see Daily GPISept. 22).

Both of those cases involved FLSA violations and resulted from DOL investigations. If granted class action certification, the lawsuit in Pennsylvania could apply to wireline field personnel, including supervisors, operators and hands. The employees who filed the complaint worked for Express as wireline operators and wireline hands. 

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