Although it’s thriving, the Texas oil and gas industry is plagued with wage disputes. Learn how to successfully handle these wage disputes in the oil industry.
The oil industry is infamous for a broad range of issues beyond environmental damage. Indeed, gas companies and oil companies have caused heavy environmental damage, for which many people are suing these companies. However, even employees in the oil industry are filing claims for financial compensation against oil companies. This is the case in East Texas and West Texas.
The problem is that oil and gas companies are stealing their employee’s wages through several means. A 2014 investigation uncovered these labor & employment issues. Oil and gas companies are routinely reducing the financial compensation of their workers. In addition, they’re denying them other labor and employment benefits, such as leaves and insurance.
All these unhealthy practices even affect oil industry employees with jobs as dangerous as those in the construction industry. Fortunately, you can file a claim for damages if you’re a victim of wage theft in the oil industry. This is all thanks to different forms of legal protection under Texas Labor and Employment Law. However, you’ll need super lawyers in Texas to get the actual compensation you deserve.
What Is Wage Theft?
Wage theft refers to when employers of labor deny their employees their wages or other employee benefits. Notably, Texas has a wage theft problem that cuts across several industries, not just the oil and gas companies. For example, workers lose over a billion dollars in unpaid minimum wage annually. Worse still, many victims of wage theft are struggling to make ends meet. That’s why federal and state laws are constantly being deployed to protect victims of wage theft in Texas.
How Oil and Gas Companies Deny Workers Their Wages in Texas
Players in the oil industry employ various means to deny their employees’ wages. Unfortunately, many of these employees, including union workers, are unaware of these tactics. Therefore, they can’t guarantee receiving the actual compensation packages they deserve. That’s why we’ve explained the different tactics below.
Wages are often determined by employment status. So, many oil and natural gas companies misclassify their workers to avoid paying them the right wages. For example, these companies usually misclassify regular employees as independent contractors. This is because independent contractors have fewer employment benefits and their wages differ.
However, the misclassified employees later end up working long hours without overtime. Fortunately, labor & employment law rules protect these employees. You can thus file a claim for damages to reclaim your stolen wages.
Daily Rate Fraud
Employers also hire workers daily and then ask them to put in long shifts. Many times, they work 40-hour workweeks and are also denied overtime pay. In addition, daily rate fraud in the oil industry denies these workers of other relevant benefits they deserve.
Overtime Pay Exemption
Workers who exceed 40-hour workweeks are eligible for overtime pay. This is applicable both in East Texas and West Texas. Unfortunately, oil companies argue that certain workers don’t deserve overtime wages. This is usually the case with salaried personnel and day rate workers. However, despite the terms of your employment contract, you may yet be eligible for overtime financial compensation.
Finally, the oil business community often hires workers for particular units of jobs. Then, they pay them at piece rates. However, like with daily rate jobs, piece-rate tasks can take longer to complete. When they do, the worker has to work overtime. Sadly, employers still insist on paying them at piece rates. Hourly rate employees also suffer through this problem. This is because completing a job may take more than the agreed number of hours.
Other Ways Oil and Gas Companies Steal Their Employees’ Wages
There are many other tactics for stealing employee wages. Furthermore, oil and gas businesses practice these too. For example, some companies:
- Pay workers less than minimum wage
- Prevent workers from taking meal and rest breaks
- Demand off-the-clock work
- Pay workers less than the originally-agreed wage
- Deny employees their paid sick leave
- Withhold bonuses or vacations
- Wrongly deduct their workers’ pay
- Pay final wages very late
- Full wage theft, which rarely occurs
Many oil industry employees are also affected by these wage theft actions, including:
If you’re a victim of any of these practices, you can file a claim for damages. Wage theft amounts to a breach of contract. So, labor & employment law principles can help get you the sum you deserve.
Resolving Wage Disputes in the Texas Oil and Gas Industry
Like all legal disputes, you can resolve a Texas oil and gas industry trade dispute with your employer. Furthermore, there are multiple laws and methods to get your rightful wages. Below, we’ll explain some of these methods.
Filing a Claim Under the Texas Payday Law
If you’re a victim of wage theft in the Texas oil and gas industry, you can file a claim under the Texas Payday Law. This law is administered by the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC). In addition, it applies to all Texas businesses, except public employers such as the state and federal government. So, you can file an oil and gas wage dispute claim under this law.
Notably, though, you must institute legal action within 180 days from when your unpaid wages originally became due. If only part of your unpaid wages were due within this period, you could only claim that amount. There are also important components of your wage dispute claim. Some of them include:
- Each type of unpaid wage you’re claiming
- An explanation of how you arrived at this figure
- Signature and attestation of the truth of your claims
- Supporting documents or other sources of evidence
You must also submit different claims where multiple employers owe you. In addition, you can file this claim online or in paper format. However, an online application means that your claim will be resolved faster. You can find the forms here. After submission, you’ll receive an acknowledgment mail.
This message will also inform you of the claim process. Your employer will also get a notification to which they’re supposed to reply. Furthermore, an investigator will contact you and your employer once the determination process begins.
What Happens After I File a Wage Dispute Claim With the TWC?
After the wage dispute investigation, the TWC will send another mail to you and your employer. If you’re successful, you’ll get your wages from your employer. However, a wage dispute investigation will not always go your way. You don’t need to worry, though, since you have a right to appeal the decision. Notably, too, you must appeal this decision within 21 days. The clock starts ticking from the day you get the decision notice. The TWC may even penalize your employer.
Can I Sue My Employer for Wage Disputes?
Yes, you can file a civil lawsuit against your employer for withholding your wages. You can also sue them for any other forms of wage theft. The Texas Wage Theft Law guarantees this right. Notably, too, you don’t have to file a claim with the TWC first. Instead, you can skip the Commission and approach the court.
An experienced employment and labor lawyer will know which option best serves you. Approaching the Commission is an excellent idea. However, if things don’t go your way, you may still have to file a civil lawsuit. Therefore, it may be best to go to the courts first.
The Texas Wage Theft Act also makes non-payment of wages a third-degree felony. So, your employer may face criminal prosecution.
Important Statute of Limitations
However, a civil action for your wages will be based on breach of contract rules. Therefore, you must pay attention to the statute of limitations for breach of contract lawsuits. Statutes of limitations dictate time frames within which you must bring lawsuits.
This law gives you three years within which to file your claim. So, if you miss this deadline, you may lose the chance of getting your wages. That’s why you need an excellent attorney to ensure you keep to time. A lawyer will also remind you of the 180-day statutory period under the Texas Payday Law.
How To Protect Your Wages
Wage theft is hardly preventable. This is because employers employ these techniques to enrich themselves. However, you can take steps to protect yourself from wage theft. You can use the tips we explain below:
Know Your Rights
It’s easy to steal an ignorant employee’s wages. Therefore, your first protection against wage theft is information. This means that you’ll have to familiarize yourself with labor laws. You can start by understanding the nature of your employment. For instance, you must know whether you qualify as an employee or an independent contractor.
Calculate Your Work Hours
Work hours are key to calculating your due wages. This is the case for most types of employees. When your employer pays, you’ll have to balance your wages against the number of hours you worked. In addition, you also need to know when you exceed 40-hour workweeks. This is crucial because it can make you eligible for overtime pay. However, you’ll be unable to track your pay if you don’t track your hours.
Report any Wage Reductions
Wage reductions aren’t always intentional. Instead, employers sometimes make honest mistakes when computing work hours and wages. That’s why it’ll be best to report any wage shortfalls immediately. If it’s a mistake, your employer should quickly rectify it. However, suppose it wasn’t an error. Then, you’ll know you have a wage dispute on your hands. Waiting too long may be detrimental, so acting fast is best.
Let Our Texas Super Lawyers Help You Get Financial Compensation!
Are you a victim of wage theft in America’s oil-rich Texas? If you are, you may be eligible to file a claim for damages. However, proceeding alone against oil companies is a terrible idea. This is because the natural gas companies, for instance, have enough money to get the best lawyers available.
So, they can tie up your case in federal courts forever. That’s why it’ll be best to hire your team of super lawyers. At McDonald & Worley, our attorneys have multiple years of experience in labor and employment law disputes. So, we have all it takes to go up against the oil industry employers to get you your actual compensation. So, contact our Labor and Employment Law Section today for a FREE consultation.