Oklahoma residents may have heard of the energy company Haliburton, which has been in the news for various reasons in the past, not all of which were positive. In another example of negative publicity, the company has reportedly settled a claim with the U.S. Department of Labor for millions of dollars due to running afoul of the country's federal wage and hour laws.
Previous posts here have discussed the fact that simply paying employees a salary does not automatically make them exempt from overtime pay. The DOL has certain specific guidelines that it applies under the Fair Labor Standards Act when determining whether an employee is exempt. Apparently, after an investigation that lasted years, the DOL determined that Haliburton has misclassified employees in 28 job descriptions as exempt, and failed to pay them overtime wages for hours worked in excess of 40 in a week, as well as failing to adequately record workers' hours.
The energy giant will be paying out over $18 million to over 1,000 affected employees around the country to cover the back wages. Here in Oklahoma, Haliburton will be paying employees an estimated $1.3 million dollars. According to the U.S. Secretary of Labor, such settlements not only protect workers, but also competing companies that correctly follow the law.
Although there is no indication of whether the Haliburton misclassification of its employees was intentional or accidental, many businesses will attempt to save money in any way possible. It is important that employees remember their rights, and that businesses understand that short-term savings may end up being expensive long-term mistakes. The rules regarding exempting employees from overtime pay can be tricky and confusing even for experienced business people. Those who believe that they have wage and hour claims, and employers who wish to avoid breaking the law and paying the price, may want to get more information about the applicable laws.
Source: k2radio.com, "Halliburton Ordered To Pay Back Wages To Wyoming Employees," Tom Morton, Sept. 23, 2015