In 2016, Helix Energy Solutions Group paid a tool pusher named Michael Hewitt more than $200,000 to oversee the drill and deck crews and the subsea department on an oil rig. Mr. Hewitt put in many overtime hours during the course of his employment at Helix and believed he was owed overtime pay, but his employer claimed he was exempt from overtime because of how highly compensated he was. In a ruling that is sure to send shockwaves through the energy industry, the 5th U.S. Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the employee.
The dissenting judges, and Helix’s legal team, argued that Hewitt was performing a supervisory role that should be exempt from overtime laws. The 12-6 majority disagreed based on a careful reading of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
What does the FLSA say about overtime?
Enacted in 1938, the FLSA protects key rights, including the right to overtime pay, of workers in the United States. Under the FLSA:
- Employees shall be compensated one and a half times their hourly wage for time worked in excess of 40 hours.
- Certain employees are exempt from this law, including those classified as managers.
Many overtime disputes hinge on the definition of what a manager, exactly, is. In this case, the court found that Mr. Hewitt was not performing the role of a manager in his work for Helix.
Are you owed overtime pay?
As a result of the 5th Circuit’s ruling, Helix must pay Michael Hewitt all of the back overtime pay he is owed plus interest. If you work in the oil and gas industry and believe you are owed overtime pay, this ruling may have opened doors for you.
Even if you are paid daily and well-compensated, as Michael Hewitt was, your employer may owe you a significant sum for the time you worked in excess of 40 hours a week. An experienced employment law attorney can help you understand how the law applies in your unique situation.