Court allows oilfield overtime class action to proceed

A federal court in Oklahoma recently denied an oilfield services company’s efforts to dismiss a collective action lawsuit seeking unpaid overtime.  A former employee of Gore Nitrogen Pumping Service filed suit against the company alleging that it illegally denied him and other workers overtime pay in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”).  The plaintiff worked for the company as a “Fracturing Specialist” and a “Frac Hand.”  He filed the suit as both an individual suit and on behalf of other, similarly situated workers, in what is known as a “collective action.”  He defined the proposed class of workers as “individuals that worked under the job titles of “Frac Hand,” “Pump Hand,” “Fracturing Specialist,” “Nitrogen Pumping Specialist,” “Fluid Pump Operator,” “Nitrogen Operator,” “Equipment Operator,” “Treatment Analyst,” and other non-supervisory job titles performing similar work that include the term “Specialist,” “Hand” or “Operator” in the job title.”  

The company filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the Plaintiff’s class action as defined was vague and over broad, and that it essentially encompassed the entire workforce of the company.  The Court stated that in order to survive a motion to dismiss, the Plaintiff’s complaint need only “contain facts sufficient to create the plausible inference that the members of the proposed employee group were together the victims of a single decision, policy or plan.”  

The Court found that “while the Amended Complaint’s proposed employee group includes persons performing different jobs, these differences are immaterial in light of the allegedly unlawful compensation scheme.”  The Court found that the Plaintiff had pled allegations of a widespread company policy to deny workers overtime and pay them on a salary basis.  As such, the Court concluded that “Plaintiff has sufficiently defined the class with these specific criteria to provide Defendants with fair notice of the proposed employee group.”  The Court denied the Defendants’ motion to dismiss and allowed the suit to continue.  

This case illustrates that it is quite difficult for a defendant sued for unpaid overtime violations to prevail on a motion to dismiss, even when the plaintiff’s allegations, including his or her class definition, are rather broad.  If you and your co-workers have been the victims of a company policy that has denied you overtime pay, visit with an experienced overtime attorney as soon as possible to learn of your legal rights. Josh Borsellino represents workers on claims for unpaid overtime.  Call Josh at 817.908.9861 or 432.242.7118 or complete this form for a free consultation.  

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