Thursday, July 30, 2015

Fracking Water Drivers Are Entitled to Make a Claim for Overtime Pay

On June 30, 2015, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania ruled that drivers were entitled to make a claim for overtime pay when transporting hydraulic fracturing water.

Plaintiffs worked as haul drivers transporting water from Pennsylvania sources to natural gas rigs within the state for hydraulic fracturing operations. They worked more than forty hours per hour and thus seek to be paid for extra working hours as mandated by the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act (MWA). Plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against their employer for violation of both the federal and state provisions.

Defendant contended that plaintiffs are not entitled to claim overtime pay under the Motor Carrier Exemption section 13(b)(1) of the FLSA, because they meet the requirements of such exemption. Employees falling under the Motor Carrier Exemption are the ones that are “within the authority of the Secretary of Transportation to establish qualifications and maximum hours of service pursuant to Section 204 of the Motor Carrier Act of 1935.” For employees to be exempt, they must be employed by a motor carrier and perform activities that “affect the safety of operation of motor vehicles in transportation on public highways in interstate or foreign commerce.”

To determine if the exemption applies, the District Court went through two issues. First, the court analyzed whether fracking water is property subject to the Secretary of Transportation’s jurisdiction; and second, the court considered whether transportation of fracking water affects interstate commerce. Defendants carry the burden of proof when it comes to both issues. 

The District Court reasoned that water is property because drilling companies are water owners, and it brings benefits to motor carriers. The District Court, however, found that transportation of fracking water does not affect interstate commerce because the final destination was considered to be the gas wells in Pennsylvania where the freshwater was delivered rather than the disposal wells in Ohio where the fracturing wastewater was ultimately delivered. Therefore, the District Court concluded that plaintiffs are entitled to make a claim for overtime pay. A trial is scheduled for August 3, 2015.

Information on this case is available at docket no. 3:13-cv-02844.

Written by Chloe Marie - Research Fellow

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