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  • What Rights Protect You While Working In The Oil Field? Industry Rights Explained

Working in the oil field is a dangerous job.

In fact, the risk of injury to workers in the oil and gas industry is five times the national average of other occupations.

When it comes to serious injury, oil workers have a lot to worry about. They risk involvement in motor vehicle accidents or being struck by equipment. They can even get caught in between or under that equipment. In unsafe work environments, they can fall, slip, or experience a strain.

Oil and gas field workers are exposed to extreme hazards such as toxic chemicals, fire, explosions, and others. These are threats that other American workers rarely or never come up against.

Some of these dangers cannot be eliminated, but are decreased when workers’ rights are honored by employers.

Rights You Have Working in the Oil Field

Just because you entered a dangerous industry doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be protected. You have the same rights as all American workers, plus a few more.

The following rights are in place to protect you while working in the oil field.

Equal Employment Opportunity

Oil workers are protected by Title VII of the Civil Rights Law of 1964 which guarantees equal opportunity for workers.

This law applies to any employer with more than 15 employees. It covers employee decisions involving recruitment, hiring, promotion, transfer, wages and benefits, and more.

This means that the oil field operator and his company cannot discriminate hiring and promotion choices based on race, national origin, color, gender, or religion.

Language is also not a barrier to employment unless a specific language is required for the job. For example, English is the language of the sea. So a maritime radio operator must be able to speak English.

Health Coverage

All full-time workers are guaranteed access to health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Companies that employ 50 or more workers and do not offer them the minimal level of insurance are forced to pay a penalty.

To qualify for this, an employee must work a minimum of 30 hours a week on average.

Because of the dangerous nature of the industry, it is imperative that all oil and gas rig workers have access to good health coverage.

Safe Working Environment

All oil and field industry maintain rights working in the oil field under the Merchant Marine Act of 1920. This statute regulates maritime commerce in U.S. waters and between ports.

The legislation empowers offshore seamen to make claims and collect compensation from negligent employers. If an employer fails to adhere to safety regulations and an employee is injured or dies on the job, they will be sued.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) imposes safety regulations on shore for rig employees. For offshore employees, the regulations are enforced by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement.

There are several regulations governed by both groups that concern the following:

  • Regular maintenance on all equipment
  • Ample employee safety training
  • The requirement of free medical care
  • Safe equipment storage
  • Weekly emergency exercises and drills
  • Provide workers with access to General Platform Alarm (GPA) and emergency contact numbers

Security Checks

All oil rig workers must have the Transportation Worker Identification Credential, which is issued by the Transportation Security Administration.

Their intent is to deter terrorists from employment in the industry, which gives them access to critical transportation infrastructures.

Obtaining this credential requires employees to pass an FBI background investigation that will unearth any matters where the applicant has had contact with the law. These matters can be civil or criminal.

Unemployment Compensation

If you have been fired by a rig manager, you are entitled to unemployment compensation. However, compensation rights vary by state.

If you are fired offshore, a maritime employee and operator must find a way to transport you back to shore at the operator’s expense. Depending on the state, offshore workers are compensated differently because they are maritime employees.

Overtime Law

Oil field workers typically earn a high salary, but they are still entitled to overtime if they work over their scheduled hours.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) ensures the payment of overtime to oil field workers who work in excess of 40 hours in a work week. The rate of hours worked in excess of 40 has to be at least one and one-half times the employee’s regular pay rate.

Many oil and gas companies employ workers on a fixed salary, hourly, or per job basis and ignore overtime hours. They are in violation of the law.

Common overtime violations in the oil fields are the result of the following activities:

  • Ignoring bonuses and excess pay in overtime calculations
  • Paying a fixed salary, day rate, or per job rate with no overtime pay
  • Classifying oil field workers as independent contractors to avoid paying overtime
  • Not considering the time spent on traveling, meetings, or training as time worked
  • Classifying non-exempt workers as exempt workers
  • Paying straight time, (instead of time and a half) for hours worked over 40 in a week


Whistleblower Protections

There are some federal statutes that protect whistleblowers in the oil and gas industry.

Many employees are afraid to speak up regarding safety violations in the workplace. OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program seeks to protect the rights of those employees.

Any employee who thinks they have suffered retribution for reporting violations have the ability to file a complaint with their local OSHA office.

Don't Hesitate to Ask for Help

Oil and gas workers face dangerous work conditions while working in the oil field.

The dangers can never be avoided completely, but employees are entitled to compensation when employers are negligent.

If you’ve been discriminated against or injured because of a company’s failure to provide you with a safe work environment, it’s time to hire an attorney.

The right law firm will walk you through the different laws and how they apply to your case. Let an experienced professional file the appropriate claims so that you don’t have to do it alone.

Read our FAQs to get started, then contact us today for a free evaluation of your case.