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The U.S. Labor Department won back pay for more than 4,000 oil and gas workers in Texas, Oklahoma and North Dakota during the past year, according to a report by KGOU.

The back pay awards totaled $6.7 million and accounted for a third of all such settlements by all types of industries nationwide, the report said.

“We were hearing that workers were being misclassified as independent contractors, that they were being paid straight-time for their hours over 40 in a workweek. And we were hearing this consistently throughout the Southwest Region,” said Cynthia Watson, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Regional Administrator in Dallas.

KGOU said Department of Labor cases since 2012 include:

  • A Houston company that builds drilling rigs that paid back $687,000 in back wages to 133 roughnecks and crane operators
  • A Louisiana company that provides labor services to the industry and paid nearly $2 million in back wages to 2,267 workers
  • A New Mexico company that agreed to pay nearly $600,000 to 121 to drilling rig mud logging technicians.

Some companies misclassified their employees as independent contractors and avoided paying overtime and other benefits, the report said.

Andrea Johnson, a lawyer with Burleson LLP, a Houston firm specializing in energy, told KGOU the Fair Labor Standards Act “is complicated and that when it comes to energy workers, many are well paid and might be exempt from overtime.”

Johnson said the Department of Labor and plaintiffs’ attorneys are targeting the energy industry.

“We have the jobs, we have the work, we are making the money and that’s why we are a target,” she said.