Wage and Hour Division (WHD)
U.S. Department of Labor
EXTON, Pa. -- Groundwater and Environmental Services Inc., doing business as GES, will pay $187,165 in back wages to 69 employees after an investigation conducted by the U.S Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division found violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act’s overtime and record-keeping provisions at company branches in Cranberry Township, Pa., and Fairmont, W.Va. The Exton-based firm is contracted to collect water samples from property owners in close proximity to oil and gas well drilling sites for the purpose of conducting baseline sampling surveys.
The investigations found that GES improperly classified nonexempt employees, such as junior environmental scientists and junior baseline samplers, as exempt from overtime pay, and paid them straight time for all hours worked, rather than time and one-half their regular rates of pay for hours worked in excess of 40 in a workweek. The employees were paid on an hourly basis, but were not paid an overtime premium for field work and were not compensated for hours worked in the office. The company also failed to keep accurate records of hours worked by these employees.
“Although the company claimed employees who gathered water samples from their assigned areas were professionally exempt from receiving minimum wage and overtime, our investigation determined the exemption did not apply because the employees were not required to have advanced knowledge to perform their duties,” said John DuMont, director of the Wage and Hour Division’s Pittsburgh District Office. “These violations reflect one of the problems we’ve found in the oil and gas extraction industry—employees are improperly classified as exempt from the FLSA and are not paid the proper wages in accordance with federal law.”
The investigations were conducted under a multiyear enforcement initiative focused on vendors who perform various phases of the oil and gas fracking process on the Marcellus Shale formation located beneath the commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the state of West Virginia. Initiative efforts, in this fast growing industry, seek to inform workers of their rights and ensure FLSA compliance among oil and gas companies and other related businesses, including but not limited to tree clearing, quarries, road construction, paving, masonry, haulers of water and stone, and other types of support or ancillary service providers.
Under this ongoing initiative, the division is reaching out to employers and employer associations to provide them with compliance assistance information and secure their cooperation in promoting such industrywide compliance. Similarly, the division is conducting outreach to workers and community groups to inform them of the initiative and departmental services, and to encourage vulnerable workers to come forward with potential violations.
The FLSA requires that covered employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour as well as time and one-half their regular rates for every hour they work beyond 40 per week. The law also requires employers to maintain accurate records of employees’ wages, hours and other conditions of employment, and prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who exercise their rights under the law.
The FLSA provides an exemption from both minimum wage and overtime pay requirements for individuals employed in bona fide executive, administrative, professional and outside sales positions, as well as certain computer employees. To qualify for exemption, employees generally must meet certain tests regarding their job duties and be paid on a salary basis at not less than $455 per week. Job titles do not determine exempt status. For an exemption to apply, an employee’s specific job duties and salary must meet all the requirements of the department’s regulations.
For more information about the FLSA, contact the division’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243) or its Pittsburgh District Office at 412-395-4996. Information also is available at http://www.dol.gov/whd.
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