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Class action challenges company’s non-compensation of travel and meeting time

published in McAfee & Taft EmployerLINC | February 8, 2022

Whether to pay any travel time for employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) can be complicated. Employees who believe they should be compensated for that time often challenge non-payment. A dispute over travel time with one employee can sometimes even blossom into a class action lawsuit involving a large number of employees and former employees. An oilfield employer recently found itself battling exactly that sort of expanding lawsuit.

Housing, worksites, and travel

Evolution Well Services Operating, LLC provides a variety of oilfield services to the fracturing industry. Some employees are assigned to 14-day rotations while working at remote well sites. Prior to beginning each rotation, employees traveled from their homes to housing provided by Evolution. After completing their 14-day rotations, the employees left the employer-provided housing and returned home.

During these rotations, Evolution frequently held morning meetings with their workers on-site at the employer-provided housing before the employees left for the worksite. The meetings, which generally lasted 15 to 20 minutes, included discussions with supervisors, temperature checks, and occasionally drug testing.

Each day, employees traveled between the employer-provided housing to remote worksites. On average this commute was a three-hour roundtrip. Employees claimed they performed some work tasks during their daily commute.

The FLSA class action

Evolution employees and former employees are currently pursuing a class action lawsuit against the company, claiming they should have been paid for:

  1. Travel time to and from their homes to the employer-provided housing at the beginning and at the end of their 14-day rotations;
  2. The 15 – 20 minutes spent attending each morning meeting; and
  3. Travel time (three hours roundtrip) spent each day between the employer-provided housing and a remote worksite.

Although it remains to be seen whether the employees will be successful, at this point the court has conditionally approved them to move forward with their class action lawsuit against Evolution.

Under the FLSA, whether an employer is required to pay an employee for travel time depends on specific facts, such as:

  • Whether travel is from home to work;
  • Whether travel is to different worksites during the day;
  • Whether travel is to a different city and returning the same day;
  • Whether travel requires an overnight stay;
  • Whether travel is during regular work hours; and
  • Whether the employee performs work while traveling.

The Wage and Hour Division’s Fact Sheet #22 provides a helpful summary of when travel time is compensable: https://www.dol.gov/sites/dolgov/files/WHD/legacy/files/whdfs22.pdf

Check your travel compensation practices

Under the FLSA, an employer’s obligation to pay employees for some types of travel time, but not for others, can be confusing. Increasingly, plaintiffs’ attorneys are targeting employers with potential class action lawsuits aimed at challenging a company’s practices. Before that happens to you, audit your own travel pay practices. Make sure you are consistent on when travel time is paid and that your travel pay practices comply with the FLSA’s requirements.

Copley et al v. Evolution Well Services Operating, LLC, Case No. 2:20-CV-1442-CCW (W.D. Pa. 2022)