Maritime and Offshore Workers
Maritime and offshore workers have special rights when it comes to wage and hour laws. Historically, most offshore workers are subjected to wage violations involving (a) misclassification as exempt; or (b) work off the clock.
Just because your employer says you are exempt, doesn’t make it so. Job titles are meaningless. Instead, it is important to understand what work maritime and offshore employees are performing on a weekly basis and why each job exists in the first place. A good test is whether the employee spends 20% or more of their time performing a job which is unrelated tot he navigation of the vessel as a means of transportation. For example, there is no dispute that a captain’s job relates to the navigation of a vessel. This is his is most important function. In contrast, a tankermen’s job relates primarily to the loading and unloading of chemicals or fuel. The tankermen’s job has nothing to do with the navigation of the vessel. Yet many employers treat tankermen as exempt from the overtime requirements. Another example involves divers. Divers perform work that is related to the repair, construction, and maintenance of offshore drilling rigs. While divers are often stationed on a vessel, they don’t perform any work that aids the vessel as a means of navigation. Their job is diving. This of course doesn’t prevent employers from misclassifying divers as exempt or otherwise shortchanging their overtime by using illegal day rates or pre-determined hours worked.
If you have any questions about whether you are properly classified or being paid properly, please call us for a free legal consultation.
Maritime Jobs Often Subject to Wage Claim Litigation
Many employers simply label maritime and offshore employees as exempt from the overtime requirements using what is called the seaman exemption. The effect of this classification is that the workers don’t receive overtime compensation when they work more than 40 hours a week. Maritime and offshore employees often work more than 84 hours a week during a hitch. As a result, the misclassification of employees as exempt can result in the loss of thousands of dollars of unpaid overtime. Read more here.
Sometimes maritime employers misclassify and pay their employees a day rate and no additional compensation when they work more than 40 hours a week to avoid paying overtime. Read more here.
Offshore companies incorrectly and illegally classify some positions as independent contractors to avoid providing full compensation. Independent contractors decide when and where they work, work for more than one company on a weekly basis, and provide their own equipment. Read more here.
Like so many other industries, hourly offshore workers are often forced to perform work “off the clock” and without compensation. The following activities are considered “on the clock” work and must be properly compensated:
- Pre- and post-shift safety meetings
- Tool box meetings
- Man to man shift relief
- Mobilization and demobilization
- Physicals and drug testing
- Waiting or idle time
- Training time outside of regular working hours
- On-call time
Maritime employers use per diem payments to avoid paying offshore workers overtime, taxes and/or other benefits they are owed. Read more here.
If an employer has told you to not report all of the hours you worked or changed your time sheet, you might have a wage claim. You are entitled to compensation for all of the hours you have worked. Read more here.
Improper Overtime Rate
Employees working offshore often receive bonuses based on depth pay, danger pay, safety bonuses and other forms of compensation. These additional payments are often paid in addition to the weekly wages owed to the employee. Frequently, employers fail to include the additional payments in the formula used to calculate unpaid overtime. In other words, even though the law requires that overtime wage be calculated based on all remuneration (compensation) received, many employers pay these bonuses separately. This practice results in employees receiving their overtime pay at an artificially low rate and saves the employer thousands of dollars in weekly overtime wages. If you receive extra pay in addition to your weekly wages, odds are that you are owed unpaid overtime and penalties.
If you have not been compensated for your time correctly, contact us. We can help you receive the back wages that you have worked for and have already earned. If your employer does not pay you to attend meetings or training or while you are traveling to and from your offshore worksite, you may be eligible for back wages.