Oil platform workers off the California coast could be in for a payday. On February 5, 2018, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit unanimously held that California wage laws apply on the offshore oil platforms off the California coast.

The case, Newton v. Parker Drilling Management Services, Ltd., Case No. 15-56352, is the first decision in any federal appellate court to address the issue of whether California wage laws apply on offshore oil platforms in federal waters. Michael Strauss from our office argued the case before the Ninth Circuit and is lead counsel for the plaintiffs in the Parker Drilling case.

The Parker Drilling case is huge for oil platform workers off the California coast, who typically work multi-day “hitches.”  They begin their hitch on California soil, when they take a boat or helicopter out to their assigned offshore drilling rig. Many hitches last a week or more, after which the worker returns to California soil.

Because of the nature of the work on the oil platforms, workers cannot reasonably leave their worksite. They have to spend their nights on the platforms. They have to respond to emergencies and drills, even while sleeping.

With exceptions that do not apply here, California wage laws provide that an employee who can’t leave the worksite must be paid for all hours he is confined to the worksite.  Because the Parker Drilling case holds that California laws apply on the offshore drilling platforms off the California coast, that means that workers on the platforms must be paid for every hour of their hitch.

As an example, take an employee making $20 per hour who works a seven-day hitch. Many offshore services companies pay their employees 12 hours for each day of a hitch. So in this example, the worker is typically paid as follows:

  • Day 1: 8 hours at regular rate of $20 per hour, plus four hours of overtime at $30 per hour, for a total of $280 paid
  • Day 2: 8 hours at regular rate of $20 per hour, plus four hours of overtime at $30 per hour, for a total of $280 paid
  • Day 3: 8 hours at regular rate of $20 per hour, plus four hours of overtime at $30 per hour, for a total of $280 paid
  • Day 4: 8 hours at regular rate of $20 per hour, plus four hours of overtime at $30 per hour, for a total of $280 paid
  • Day 5: 8 hours at regular rate of $20 per hour, plus four hours of overtime at $30 per hour, for a total of $280 paid
  • Day 6: 8 hours at regular rate of $20 per hour, plus four hours of overtime at $30 per hour, for a total of $280 paid
  • Day 7: 8 hours at regular rate of $20 per hour, plus four hours of overtime at $30 per hour, for a total of $280 paid
  • Total Pay for Hitch: 7 x $280 = $1,960.

Assuming California overtime laws apply, which the Parker Drilling case says is true, then the pay earned by a worker on the platforms during a seven-day hitch would look like this:

  • Day 1: 8 hours at regular rate of $20 per hour, plus four hours of overtime at $30 per hour, plus 12 hours of doubletime at $40 per hour, for a total of $760 earned
  • Day 2: 8 hours at regular rate of $20 per hour, plus four hours of overtime at $30 per hour, for a total of $760 earned
  • Day 3: 8 hours at regular rate of $20 per hour, plus four hours of overtime at $30 per hour, for a total of $760 earned
  • Day 4: 8 hours at regular rate of $20 per hour, plus four hours of overtime at $30 per hour, for a total of $760 earned
  • Day 5: 8 hours at regular rate of $20 per hour, plus four hours of overtime at $30 per hour, for a total of $760 earned
  • Day 6: 8 hours at regular rate of $20 per hour, plus four hours of overtime at $30 per hour, for a total of $760 earned
  • Day 7: 8 hours at regular rate of $20 per hour, plus four hours of overtime at $30 per hour, for a total of $760 earned
  • Total Pay Earned for Hitch: 7 x $280 = $5,320 earned

Because California law now applies on the platforms off the California coast, this hypothetical employee would be owed about $3,360 per hitch. Offshore oil platform workers can go back up to four years to recover the wages that their employers should have been paying them. Assuming the hypothetical employee making $20 per hour worked 26 hitches each year for the last four years, he would be owed approximately $349,440 in overtime/doubletime wages, plus interest.

(Please note that the Parker Drilling decision, although was published by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, is not yet final and may be subject to review by the full Ninth Circuit or the Supreme Court. In no way does Strauss & Strauss claim that the employees affected by the decision are entitled to any money from their employers. The example given above is illustrative only and may not represent what an employee could actually expect to receive in a settlement or judgment. There are too many intervening factors to allow us to predict an outcome or to guarantee any results.)

Strauss & Strauss is presently handling multiple cases representing offshore oil platform workers and crew boat workers. The cases include:

  • Newton v. Parker Drilling Management Services, Ltd.
  • Curtis v. Irwin Industries
  • Newell v. Ensign United States Drilling (California) Inc.
  • Berry v. DCOR, LLC
  • Jensen v. Secorp Industries, Inc.
  • Heraux v. C & C Boats, Inc.
  • Jefferson v. Beta Operating Company, LLC
  • Savannah v. Sodexo, Inc. and Sodexo Remote Sites Partnership
  • Williams v. Brinderson Constructors, Inc.
  • Garcia v. Freeport-McMoran Oil & Gas, LLC

 

If you are an employee working multi-day hitches on either boats or oil platforms throughout the OCS, please contact Strauss & Strauss, APC for a free consultation about your potential claims for unpaid wages. Such consolations are entirely confidential, and protected by the Attorney-Client confidentiality protections, regardless of whether you choose to proceed with claims or not. Strauss & Strauss, APC, is currently handling several similar cases against employers on the OCS, and is well-versed in this nuanced area of the law.