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Columbus Employment Attorneys / Blog / Collective and Class Actions / New Independent Contractor Misclassification Overtime Lawsuit Filed Against Gulfport Energy Corporation

New Independent Contractor Misclassification Overtime Lawsuit Filed Against Gulfport Energy Corporation

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FLSA Overtime Attorneys at Coffman Legal, LLC filed a Collective and Class Action Lawsuit against Gulfport Energy Corporation for the alleged misclassification of employees as “independent contractors” in order to not properly pay overtime wages earned pursuant to FLSA.

On April 8, 2020, the law firm of Coffman Legal, LLC filed a Collective and Class Action Complaint against Gulfport Energy Corporation (“Gulfport Energy”) on behalf of a day-rate employee of Gulfport Energy and other similarly situated employees for the alleged failure of Gulfport to fully and properly compensate its employees for all overtime wages in violation of the Fair Labor Standard Act (“FLSA”).

The Complaint alleges that Gulfport Energy misclassified its employees as “independent contractors” in order to avoid compliance with the FLSA, and in particular, to avoid paying its employees overtime pursuant to the FLSA.

Under the FLSA, only employees are entitled to overtime and minimum-wage compensation, and independent contractors do not enjoy FLSA’s protections. (See Keller v. Miri Microsystems LLC, 781 F.3d 799, 806 (6th Cir. 2015). Oftentimes, employers will label workers as “independent contractors” in order to avoid compliance with the FLSA and to avoid providing other required benefits. However, just because an employer labels a worker a specific way, i.e. “independent contractor,” the label does not necessarily mean the worker is truly an independent contractor under the law.

The Supreme Court of the United States has long held, “Where the work done, in its essence, follows the usual path of an employee, putting on an ‘independent contractor’ label does not take the worker from the protection of the Act.” Rutherford Food Corp. v. McComb, 331 U.S. 722, 729, 67 S. Ct. 1473, 1476, 91 L. Ed. 1772 (1947). If an employer misclassifies an employee as an “independent contractor,” then the employer can be liable to workers for overtime wages they otherwise should have paid them per the FLSA.

So how do you determine whether a worker is an “employee” or an “independent contractor?”  The Sixth Circuit’s standard is that “employees are those who as a matter of economic reality are dependent upon the business to which they render service.” Keller v. Miri Microsystems LLC, 781 F.3d 799, 807 (6th Cir. 2015).

The following factors are used to assist in the application of the economic-reality test:

  • the permanency of the relationship between the parties;
  • the degree of skill required for the rendering of the services;
  • the worker’s investment in equipment or materials for the task;
  • the worker’s opportunity for profit or loss, depending upon his skill; …
  • the degree of the alleged employer’s right to control the manner in which the work is performed[; and] …
  • whether the service rendered is an integral part of the alleged employer’s business.

Id.

The Complaint alleges that Gulfport Energy contracted with another company to provide Gulfport Energy with workers who were misclassified as independent contractors. However, the Complaint alleges that these workers worked for Gulfport Energy for months, if not years at a time (the named Plaintiff alleges he worked for Gulfport for more than 5 years), at Gulfport Energy’s drill wells; that they had set days (14 days on and 14 days off) and hours (6pm to 6am); that they had no opportunity for profit and loss independent of Gulfport Energy; and that Gulfport controlled and directed their daily job duties and the manner in which work was performed at Gulfport’s drilling wells. The Complaint alleges that for all intents and purposes, these workers were employees of Gulfport Energy, and in fact, they had the exact same job duties as Gulfport Energy’s hourly day-shift employees who worked the same job from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

These workers were paid day-rate wages, meaning they were paid a set amount of dollars per day, regardless of the amount of hours worked. However, these blue collar day-rate employees are still entitled to overtime pay at one and half times their regular rate of pay.

The example above shows how an employer can misclassify an employee as an independent contractor in order to underpay the employee in violation of the FLSA. As an independent contractor, an employer is not required to pay overtime wages; however, as an employee, the worker is entitled to overtime wages. The unpaid overtime damages add up over time, and non-exempt hourly employees are entitled to receive full and proper compensation under the FLSA. The FLSA sets forth the minimum compensation employees must be paid.

The lawsuit seeks unpaid overtime wages since April 8, 2017, liquidated damages in an amount equal to the unpaid overtime, attorney’s fees, and costs, among other things.

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, Eastern Division (Columbus) and is titled Bryon Lefort v. Gulfport Energy Corporation, Case No. 2:20-cv-1792.

Additional information about the collective and class action against Gulfport Energy may be found by contacting our office by calling 1-614-949-1181 or emailing mcoffman@mcoffmanlegal.com. If you have any questions about whether you are being misclassified as a worker or if you are being properly paid for all of the compensable hours your work at the proper rate of pay, then contact our office today to speak with our Overtime Attorneys regarding any wage and hour issues. Our Ohio Overtime Lawyers regularly handle misclassification cases, including where an employer has misclassified an employee as an “independent contractor” like Gulfport.

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