By: Julia Deng
MIDLAND - Oil patch workers in the Permian Basin have been underpaid by more than $1.3 million, according to government findings released Monday by the U.S. Labor Department.
The Wage and Hour Division launched an enforcement initiative last year and found approximately 1,300 workers in West Texas and New Mexico were victims of underpayment stemming from overtime violations.
Problems cited in the study include "employers failing to include bonus payments when calculating overtime rates, [neglecting to] pay for time spent working off-the-clock and paying flat rates despite the hours worked by employees."
Labor Department officials did not name specific oil services companies or employers who had underpaid Basin workers.
Morris Burns, a Midland-based oil industry consultant and former Executive Director of the Permian Basin Petroleum Association, criticized the findings for being "vague" and "based on sloppy research."
"I know first-hand how these Wage and Hour audits are conducted, and I can tell you they probably included information from workers who falsified their time sheets," he said.
Wage and Hour Division representatives did not returns calls for comment.
It's unclear how their findings were compiled and analyzed, how many employers were audited and how the estimated $1.3 million of unpaid wages were distributed among the 1,300 underpaid workers.
"If this is really happening, the employers certainly need to be held accountable and pay these workers properly," said Burns. "Anyone who is paid wages, or hourly, must be paid time-and-a-half for overtime."
None of the oil and natural gas workers NewsWest 9 interviewed believed themselves to be victims of overtime violations.
"Our paychecks look [accurate]," said Dan Combs, who has spent 20 years in the oil patch. "I haven't had that problem ever. The problem right now is just not having overtime."