Former North Dakota oil patch worker files lawsuit about overtime pay; suit seeks class action

A North Dakota oil patch worker says his former employer misclassified him and other employees as independent contractors to avoid paying taxes and employee benefits.

Matthew Ross is seeking class action status for his lawsuit against Williston-based Baha Petroleum Consulting Corp., which he filed this week. He says that during the two years working for the company, he and other employees regularly worked more than 40 hours per week and should have received overtime pay for those extra hours.

Mark Larson, a lawyer for Ross, and officials with Baha Petroleum did not respond to phone messages Wednesday seeking comment. Court documents do not list an attorney for Baha Petroleum.

In his lawsuit, Ross says he worked as a roustabout for Baha Petroleum from September 2012 until last June. He was hired by various oil rigs to build water tanks, operate equipment, contain spills, do construction and perform other tasks.

Ross argues that Baha Petroleum should have classified him as an employee because the company micromanaged his work, his services were integral to the company and his personal investment was minimal. He says he also didn't require special skills beyond on-the-job training, his schedule made it difficult for him to pursue other job options, and he had no opportunity to make or lose money based upon his managerial skill.

The lawsuit doesn't specify an amount of damages it is seeking. Ross earned about $30 an hour, and says he should have been paid at least one and one-half times his regular rate for overtime work.

The lawsuit seeks to add to the class all roustabouts who worked for the company for the last three years and who have not been paid for overtime. The company typically employs about 50 people who work on oil rigs, according to the lawsuit.

Several lawsuits have been filed against oil and gas companies over the classification of workers. Independent contractors do not receive overtime and are required to pay their own Social Security and Medicare taxes.