After ending their 12-hour shifts, workers at Citgo’s Corpus Christi refinery spent an average of 15 minutes briefing incoming workers on the next shift—time that was not compensated.
Following a U.S. Department of Labor investigation, those employees will receive $460,853 in unpaid overtime wages, or roughly two weeks of income for each of the 239 affected employees.
In the Sparkling City by the Sea, that two-week paycheck pays a mortgage and auto loan for one month.
The department’s Wage and Hour Division investigated Citgo as part of an ongoing, multiyear, multistate compliance initiative in the oil and gas industry. The division has recovered more than $37 million in back wages for thousands of workers nationally in more than 200 investigations since 2012. “Doing things because that’s the routine is no excuse for breaking the law,” said Betty Campbell, the division’s acting Southwest regional administrator. “The law is clear about what must be considered work hours. Employers must know and comply with laws.
The Wage and Hour Division offers compliance assistance to help workers and employers. This investigation demonstrates our commitment to ensuring that workers receive a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.”
Investigators found that Citgo’s incoming shift workers relieved colleagues at the 12-hour mark; however, they had to brief the incoming shift — a process that took up to 30 minutes. When employees worked more than 40 hours in a week, the unrecorded and unpaid time workers spent briefing their replacements resulted in violations of the overtime and record-keeping provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
The division’s ongoing education and enforcement initiative addresses labor practices in the growing oil and gas industry. Working with industry leaders, employers and trade associations, the division offers training and education to promote compliance and awareness of FLSA requirements. By doing so, it encourages industry leaders to serve as models for industrywide compliance. At the same time, the division is informing workers and community groups about the initiative, their rights as workers, the division’s services and its availability to review and investigate worker complaints regarding violations. Through a combination of outreach to employers and employees, the agency seeks to ensure industry employers and businesses that support the industry, such as staffing companies, trucking, lodging, and water and stone haulers, comply with labor laws.
One of the nation’s largest petrochemical suppliers, Citgo has more than 1,000 employees at its Corpus Christi location and refines 157,000 barrels of crude oil per day.
The FLSA requires that covered, nonexempt employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour for all hours worked, plus time and one-half their regular rates, including commissions, bonuses and incentive pay, for hours worked beyond 40 per week. In general, hours worked includes all time an employee must be on duty, or on the employer’s premises or at any other prescribed place of work, from the beginning of the first principal work activity to the last activity of the workday. Additionally, the law requires that accurate records of employees’ wages, hours and other conditions of employment be maintained.
For more information about federal wage laws or to file a complaint, call the Wage and Hour Division’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Information also is available at http://www.dol.gov/whd/.