Marcellus suits claim pay abuses by Brian Bowling, October 3, 2012, The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Companies tapping the Marcellus shale for natural gas regularly advertise good-paying jobs in Pennsylvania, but three federal lawsuits and a state investigation suggest some of those jobs pay less than they should. The lawsuits claim two companies, one that provides security at well sites and one that offers fracking services, fail to pay employees overtime — and in some cases fail to pay for all the hours they work. State officials are investigating whether companies systemically misclassify employees to avoid paying overtime, workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance. The Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association, a trade group representing gas producers, marketers, service companies and related businesses, declined to comment.
Travis Windle, spokesman for the Marcellus Shale Coalition, said the industry doesn’t condone scofflaws. “Our member companies are absolutely committed to complying with all local, state and federal wage and employment laws and regulations,” he said in a written statement. “And as our industry continues to create literally tens of thousands of new jobs for Pennsylvanians, we are also committed to holding contractors to these standards.” Howard Bland Jr., a Burgettstown fracking operator, claims in one proposed class action lawsuit that Calfrac Well Services Ltd. of Alberta, Canada, doesn’t pay operators for all the hours they work, doesn’t keep accurate time sheets and doesn’t pay time-and-a-half as required by state law when they work overtime. Calfrac declined to comment. The company has more than 3,400 employees, including more than 300 at an office complex in Smithfield, Fayette County. Bland worked for Calfrac for four months, until October 2011. He is suing on behalf of current and former employees who were denied full overtime pay. Nicholas Migliaccio, one of Bland’s lawyers, said Calfrac uses payment policies that are illegal in Pennsylvania. He doesn’t know of other companies using the policy but believes it is likely. “Companies in the same industry will often have similar methods of paying their employees,” he said. “Otherwise, they’ll be at a competitive disadvantage.” [Emphasis added]