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We fight for workers’ rights all the way to the US Supreme Court

Workers on offshore oil platforms are entitled to be paid California wages

Our firm’s motto is that we are Fighting for Workers’ Rights. We take that message very seriously, even if it means taking our cases all the way to the United States Supreme Court.

On June 10, 2019, the Supreme Court issued its decision in Parker Drilling Management Services, Ltd. v. Newton, holding that California overtime and minimum wage laws do not apply to work performed on oil platforms in federal waters off the California coast. Mr. Newton is our client, and we’ve been litigating his claims against Parker Drilling since 2015. We’re going to keep fighting on his behalf and on behalf of all the other workers who, like Mr. Newton, worked on oil platforms off the coast of California. The Supreme Court may have held that these workers are not entitled to the protections of California overtime and minimum wage claims, but the rest of their claims — including those for violations of California’s meal and rest period, paycheck stub, and final wage payment laws — are are still valid.

One friend of Strauss & Strauss put it best when he said we need to “keep swinging.” That’s exactly what we’re going to do, even if it means fighting for these workers’ rights issues to the United States Supreme Court again.

California Wage Laws Apply on Offshore Oil Platforms

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.

On-Call Rest Breaks Illegal in California

Today the California Supreme Court issued its decision in Augustus v. ABM Security Services, Inc. (the decision of the Supreme Court is below). The primary holding of the decision is that California law prohibits on-duty and on-call rest breaks. In other words, California employers must relieve their employees of all duties and relinquish any control over how the employees spend their break time. On-Duty rest breaks are illegal in California, and on-call rest breaks are illegal in California too.

On-Duty Rest Breaks Are Illegal in California

California law requires employers to provide nonexempt employees with a 10-minute, paid rest break for every four hours of work. The question answered by the Augustus case was whether California employers can interrupt their employees’ rest breaks if there was a need, such as an emergency or other reason.

The facts were these: ABM, a security guard company, provided rest periods to its security guards. But the company did not relinquish all control over the guards during their rest periods. In particular, ABM required guards to keep their radios and pagers on, remain vigilant, and respond when needs arose, such as escorting tenants to parking lots, notifying building managers of mechanical problems, and responding to emergency situations.

Call Strauss & Strauss today to recover wages owed for unpaid on-call rest periods.

Call Strauss & Strauss today to recover wages owed for unpaid on-call rest periods.

The California Supreme Court held that during rest breaks employers must relieve employees of all duties and relinquish control over how employees spend their time.

In other words, California law requires employers to provide off-duty rest breaks to nonexempt employees.

On-Call Rest Breaks Are Illegal in California

The Augustus court then turned its attention to whether “on-call” rest breaks are illegal under California law. The question was “can an employer satisfy its obligation to relieve employees from duties and employer control during rest periods when the employer nonetheless requires its employees to remain on call?” The Supreme Court’s answer was “No.” The court reasoned as follows:

[O]ne cannot square the practice of compelling employees to remain at the ready, tethered by time and policy to particular locations or communications devices, with the requirement to relieve employees of all work duties and employer control during 10-minute rest periods.

The takeaway from this decision is that California employers cannot require employees to remain on-call during their rest breaks. On-call rest breaks are illegal in California.

My Employer Makes Me Stay On-Call During My Rest Breaks, What Should I Do?

If your employer makes you stay on-call during your rest breaks, call us immediately for assistance. Employers cannot make you stay on-call during your rest breaks. If they make you stay on-call during your rest breaks, the law says they must pay you one hour of pay for every rest period that you missed because you were on call. California law lets employees go back as far as four years to recover this one hour of pay for each rest break violation. Call us now to see if you have a claim for unpaid on-call rest breaks in California.

http://www.strausslawyers.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Augustus-v.-ABM-Security.pdf

Labor Commissioner Award in Owner-Operator Misclassification Case

Strauss & Strauss recently obtained a victory of over $74,000 against Central Freight Lines, Inc. The case, Villarreal v. Central Freight Lines, Inc., was heard by the California Labor Commissioner. Plaintiff sought unlawfully deducted wages, interest thereon, and penalties. The Labor Commissioner sided with the plaintiff and issued the award below.

This case was another owner-operator misclassification case. Plaintiff was a driver for Central Freight Lines, Inc., and he leased his truck from the company. Central Freight Lines, Inc. deducted various items from Plaintiff’s pay, including sums for maintenance, insurance, and the lease payments. The Labor Commissioner found that Plaintiff was lawfully an employee, not an independent contractor, and that the deductions that Central Freight Lines, Inc. made from his pay violated California law, which prohibits employers from making certain types of deductions from pay.

The decision of the Labor Commissioner is below. Please call Strauss & Strauss if you have been misclassified as an owner-operator independent contractor driver for a trucking company.

http://www.strausslawyers.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/2016.10.12-OrderDecision-or-Award.pdf

Michael Strauss Interviewed by National Publication

Michael Strauss of Strauss & Strauss, A Professional Corporation, was recently interviewed and quoted at length by Law360.com. The article, which deals with the recent settlement of FedEx employee-misclassification cases throughout the country, is available here

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