Witch hunts take a loooong time when it’s the U.S. government doing the hunting. We told you back in 2015 that the U.S. Dept. of Labor was unfairly targeting the Marcellus industry, looking at every time slip, to see if they could bag companies violating federal overtime regulations–not paying their workers overtime (see Labor Dept. Unfairly Targets Marcellus Industry in SWPA & WV).
One of the companies we mentioned as being under the microscope is Team Environmental, a West Virginia safety inspection company. The DOL finally bagged their witch.
On Wednesday a federal judge signed off on a judgment requiring Team to pay a whopping $3.7 million to 300 of its safety inspectors–half for back overtime pay, the other half just to make it hurt bad (i.e. “damages”). That works out to be an average $12,333 per worker. Lots of partying this weekend!
The specific charge is that the company paid a flat “day rate” to its employees, no matter how many hours they worked. They often worked 50-70 hours a week, but only got paid for 40.
We’re not unsympathetic to Team’s employees, but we’ve never been hourly workers ourselves. We’ve always been salaried, or (in later years) self-employed. The work is the work and it must get done, no matter how many hours are required. That’s always been our view. Overtime? Heh heh. We’ve never gotten paid a dime’s worth of overtime.
Again, we’re not excusing bad practices. If a company’s contract with employees is hourly (not salaried) and those employees work over 40 hours, the company owes them overtime. Our beef is that the DOL seems to pick on the shale industry and ignores the same “bad practices” in other sectors, like the so-called renewables industry. Why is that?
A West Virginia pipeline construction management company will have to fork over $3.7 million after U.S. Department of Labor investigators found the company flouted the Fair Labor Standards Act by shorting hundreds of workers on overtime pay, the federal government has announced.
The Labor Department on Wednesday said a federal judge has signed off on a consent judgment requiring Team Environmental LLC, a natural gas pipeline construction management company, to pay the $3.7 million to 300 of the company’s safety inspectors. Half that amount will be for back wages and the other half will constitute liquidated damages, the government said.
“Team Environmental LLC’s practices resulted in their employees taking home less money than they had legally earned,” John DuMont, a district director with the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division, said in a statement. “Other employers should use this as an opportunity to evaluate their own pay practices using the many tools we provide to ensure that they comply with federal labor law. Costly violations like those in this case can be avoided.”
Specifically, the federal government said Wage and Hour Division investigators discovered that between Oct. 20, 2012, and May 8, 2015, company inspectors were paid a day rate for all the time they worked, but were not paid time and a half when they worked more than 40 hours a week. Those workers, a June 2017 amended complaint alleged, often worked 50 to 70 hours a week.
That practice amounted to a violation of the FLSA, the government said, even though Team Environmental claimed those pay practices were common in the industry.
Last month, the DOL asked for the court to approve the consent judgment and U.S. District Judge John T. Copenhaver Jr. signed off on it earlier this month, according to court documents.
“Employees are entitled to their full wages for all the hours that they work, including overtime,” DOL Associate Regional Solicitor Samantha N. Thomas said in a statement. “This consent judgment helps to level the playing field for employers that abide by the law and encourage FLSA compliance in this industry.”*
We got to wondering, which companies does Team work for? Which pipelines were Team’s inspectors inspecting as they were being shafted out of overtime? The Team website includes logos for the following Team customers:
American Energy Partners
Piedmont Natural Gas
Pretty much the biggest and best customers in the business. A notable exception missing in the list above is Energy Transfer.
*Law360 (Mar 14, 2019) – W.Va. Pipeline Co. To Pay Workers $3.7M For OT Violations
Copy of the consent judgment against Team:
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