Groundwater and Environmental Services Inc., doing business as GES, will pay $187,165 in back wages to 69 employees.
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 and Fairmont, W.Va.
The Exton-based firm is contracted to collect water samples from property owners near oil and gas well drilling sites and conducts baseline sampling surveys.
The investigations found GES improperly classified nonexempt employees, including junior environmental scientists and junior baseline samplers, as exempt from overtime pay.
Instead, the company paid them straight time for all hours worked, rather than time and one-half of their regular rates for hours worked in excess of 40 hours in one week, a news release from the U.S. Department of Labor said.
The employees were paid on an hourly basis, but were not paid an overtime premium for fieldwork, and they were not compensated for hours worked in the office. The company also failed to keep accurate records of hours worked by these employees, the news release said.
“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 in the Marcellus Shale formations located in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
The initiative seeks to inform workers of their rights and ensure FLSA compliance among oil and gas companies and other related businesses. This includes tree clearing, quarries, road construction, paving, masonry, haulers of water and stone, and other types of support or ancillary service providers.
Under the ongoing initiative, the division is reaching out to employers and employer associations to provide them with compliance assistance information and to secure their cooperation in promoting compliance across the industry.
The division also is conducting outreach to workers and community groups to inform them of the initiative and departmental services, as well as to encourage vulnerable workers to come forward with potential violations, according to the Department of Labor.
For more information about the FLSA, call 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