There have been a number of FLSA lawsuits in the energy industry of late, focusing on unpaid overtime. One of these employers who was sued, Key Energy, has just settled two class actions for $3 million. The case is entitled Grillo v. Key Energy Services LLC and was filed in federal court in the Central District of California.
The employees advised the Court, in their motion for preliminary approval, that the decision to settle was founded on the strength (or weakness) of the case and the goal of ending the case without incurring additional legal fees and costs that could cut into the monies that the plaintiffs might receive.
The court papers filed by plaintiffs stated that “although plaintiffs and their counsel maintained a strong belief in the underlying merits of the claims, they also acknowledge the significant challenges posed by continued litigation through trial. Accordingly, when balanced against the risk and expense of continued litigation, the settlement is fair, adequate, and reasonable.”
The plaintiffs worked on oil rigs off the coast of California. They claimed that although the Company had proper overtime policies, the actuality was that the Company denied employees their statutorily mandated lunch periods and compelled people to work more than forty hours without paying proper overtime. The plaintiffs won certification in July 2016 for a class of California-based Key Energy employees; the motion before the Court asks for approval of a class with eight subclasses.
The settlement would pay the employees a total of $1.79 million dollars; the class is estimated to include more than 1800 employees. These workers would receive an average of approximately $985 per person; there would be a formula utilized, depending on the number of pay periods worked, between June 2009 and February 2017. The named plaintiffs (Grillo and Zaragoza) would each get an additional $10,000 in incentive payments for bringing the suit.
Employers in the energy industry should take note of this case and the others that have been filed (and are being filed) in recent years. I have blogged about this and spoken on it many times. There are factors inherent in the industry, e.g. methods of compensation, that have developed over the many years and may be well suited to this unique industry, but, and it is a big “but,” they may not comply with the Fair Labor Standards Act.
I urge employers in this industry to examine their compensation practices and fix what is broken, which will start to erode away the statute of limitations.