Smith v. Superior Casing Crews, Civ. A. No. 68-259.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Louisiana)
Writing for the CourtH. Minor Pipes, Houma, La., Andrew Partee, Jr., New Orleans, La., for defendant
Citation299 F. Supp. 725
PartiesClyde SMITH, Plaintiff, v. SUPERIOR CASING CREWS, Defendant.
Decision Date16 June 1969
Docket NumberCiv. A. No. 68-259.

299 F. Supp. 725

Clyde SMITH, Plaintiff,
v.
SUPERIOR CASING CREWS, Defendant.

Civ. A. No. 68-259.

United States District Court E. D. Louisiana, New Orleans Division.

April 25, 1969.

As corrected June 16, 1969.


299 F. Supp. 726
COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED
299 F. Supp. 727
Michael X. St. Martin, Philip E. Henderson, Houma, La., for plaintiffs*

H. Minor Pipes, Houma, La., Andrew Partee, Jr., New Orleans, La., for defendant.

RUBIN, District Judge:

The plaintiffs in this action under the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 201-19, seek to recover unpaid minimum wages and overtime compensation from their former employer, together with liquidated damages and attorney's fees under Section 216 of the Act. 29 U.S.C. § 216.

All of the plaintiffs were members of casing crews. Casing crews provide a specialized service at certain stages of drilling an oil well. They install large pipe, or casing, in a portion of the drill hole to provide support for that part of the hole. A casing crew normally consists of five men, all of whom work as a team, without relief by any other crew, until their job is completed.

Usually, the geologist employed by the well-owner determines in advance that the subterranean structure in which the well is being drilled is of such a nature that casing will be required when drilling reaches a certain depth. The casing crew is ordered to report before this depth is expected to be attained. The driller continues operations with his usual crew. However, when the required depth is reached, the casing crew installs, or "runs," the casing.

Part of the work involved in this suit was performed on offshore rigs and on rigs located on inland waters ("water jobs"). The remainder was performed on land rigs ("land jobs"). The defendant, Superior Casing Crews ("Superior"), would be notified by a customer that a crew would be needed at a specified location at a particular time. The pusher, or foreman, of each crew would pick up each member of his crew in a company car at the member's home and provide transportation either to the job site (in the case of land jobs), or to the dock (in the case of water jobs). The equipment to be used on the job would be transported by company truck to the job site or dock where it would be unloaded by the individual crew members. Occasionally the crew members loaded the equipment onto boats or assisted in the loading. When the job site was on water, the crew would ride a boat to the job location.

Some of the rigs were located sixty miles offshore. On some trips to offshore rigs, stops were made at several well sites. Therefore, in some instances the amount of boat time was substantial.

After arriving at the location, whether on land or water, the crew normally was required to wait until it was time to run casing. When they were summoned to the location sufficiently in advance of the time when casing would be needed, the crew usually had a meal before starting work because the food available at the drilling site was plentiful, good, and inexpensive. But on some occasions they had time only for coffee before commencing work. During the waiting period, the crew members checked and cleaned equipment and engaged in rigging up activities.

299 F. Supp. 728

When the well reached the scheduled depth for installing casing, the crew ran the casing, removed Superior's equipment, and returned by boat to the dock or by auto home.

During the period involved in this suit, Superior charged its customers $5.60 per hour per man for time spent in travel to and from wells located on water ("boat time") and for time spent waiting to run casing ("waiting time"). Superior charged for running the casing on the basis of the number of feet of casing installed and the size of the casing. If its men were required to do other work, such as loading or unloading barges, it billed for this as "other work."

THE EMPLOYMENT AGREEMENT

There is irreconciliable conflict between the testimony of the plaintiffs' witnesses and that of the defendant's witnesses with respect to whether Superior's employees were paid for overtime work at the time and one half rate required by the FLSA. 29 U.S.C. § 207(a) (1). The plaintiffs testified that their agreement with Superior was that they were to be paid for running casing according to a schedule, with their pay depending upon the size of the casing and the number of feet of casing run; they were to be paid the minimum hourly rate fixed by federal law for each hour of boat time and waiting time; and they were, in addition, to be paid an increased hourly rate for time spent in work classified as "other work." They testified that they were paid in accordance with the agreement and that they were not paid time and one half, that is, overtime pay, for any work.

Superior's witnesses testified that, while the employees were paid for running casing and "other work" in the manner described in the plaintiffs' testimony, the agreement, as well as the custom was, that employees were not to be paid at all for boat time, and were to be paid for only 13/24 of the waiting time. The payment for 13/24 of waiting time was arrived at on the supposition that, if an employee were waiting 24 hours, he would spend 8 hours sleeping and 3 hours eating meals. When the waiting time was two hours or less, no deduction was made. If it was more than 2 hours but less than 5 hours, the "girl in the office" was permitted to decide (apparently according to her own unfettered judgment) whether or not to deduct eleven twenty-fourths. Then a calculation was made of the time involved in "other work" and in running casing; those hours, added to the number of compensated hours in each week, (i. e., 13/24 of the waiting time but none of the boat time) were tallied. Time and a half was paid for hours in excess of forty in any work week. The hourly rate of pay for each man, according to this testimony, varied greatly each week, because the hourly rate was a "forced figure."1 The hourly rate would not be known until the employee's total work for the week was done.

A few of the men occasionally worked in Superior's shop. They testified that they were not paid for this work, known as "shop time." Superior contends that all of the men worked in the shop frequently and were paid shop time whenever they worked it. The plaintiffs contend that they did not actually do any such work on most occasions, but that "shop time," as shown on the payroll, was usually an artificial figure inserted to make the overtime computations appear correct.****

* * * *

* * * * It is difficult to credit any version of the facts that would assume that the employees agreed that they were not to be paid at all for time that their employer billed to his customers at $5.60 an hour. * * * * Superior's principal witness was its

299 F. Supp. 729
President, Mr. Matherne, and I place little credence on his testimony because of his demeanor and conduct as a witness and various conflicts and inconsistencies in his testimony. Mr. Matherne had previously been involved in an FLSA injunction proceeding. He was both sufficiently educated and informed to know the legal requirements with respect to keeping accurate records. * * * * Therefore, I find that the employment agreement was, as the plaintiffs testified, that employees were to be paid at the prevailing minimum wage specified in the FLSA for all boat time and waiting time, that they were not to be paid for overtime at time and one half2 * * * *

DEDUCTIONS FOR SLEEPING TIME AND EATING

In an Interpretative Bulletin, 29 C.F.R. § 785.22, the Administrator has set forth his position on enforcement of the Act with respect to deductions from compensated hours for sleeping time and lunch periods when an employee is required to be on duty for 24 hours or more. The Administrator's position is:

"The employer and the employee may agree to exclude bona fide meal periods and a bona fide regularly scheduled sleeping period of not more than 8 hours from
...

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3 practice notes
  • Halferty v. Pulse Drug Co., Inc., No. 87-5609
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • February 8, 1989
    ...895 (W.D.Mo.1986) (restaurant workers entitled to compensation while waiting during business lulls); Smith v. Superior Casing Crews, 299 F.Supp. 725, 730 (E.D.La.1969) (oil well workers entitled to compensation while setting up equipment and waiting for wells to reach a specific depth). Emp......
  • Walsh v. All Temporaries Midwest, Inc., 17-cv-3330 (JNE/TNL)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States District Court of Minnesota
    • July 30, 2021
    ...to Alonzi, Defendants did not properly pay those employees overtime in the relevant workweeks. See Smith v. Superior Casing Crews, 299 F.Supp. 725, 731 (E.D. La. 1969) (Pursuant to Section 211(c), the FLSA requires the employer “to keep accurate time and wage records” and the employer thus ......
  • Rousseau v. Teledyne Movible Offshore, Inc., Civ. A. No. 83-2553.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Western District of Louisiana
    • October 18, 1985
    ...When the barges were docked the employer was not producing any income. This case is distinguishable from Smith v. Superior Casing Crews, 299 F.Supp. 725 (E.D.La.1969). In Smith the court awarded the plaintiffs compensation for all time spent riding on boats to and from offshore rigs and all......
3 cases
  • Halferty v. Pulse Drug Co., Inc., No. 87-5609
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • February 8, 1989
    ...895 (W.D.Mo.1986) (restaurant workers entitled to compensation while waiting during business lulls); Smith v. Superior Casing Crews, 299 F.Supp. 725, 730 (E.D.La.1969) (oil well workers entitled to compensation while setting up equipment and waiting for wells to reach a specific depth). Emp......
  • Walsh v. All Temporaries Midwest, Inc., 17-cv-3330 (JNE/TNL)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States District Court of Minnesota
    • July 30, 2021
    ...to Alonzi, Defendants did not properly pay those employees overtime in the relevant workweeks. See Smith v. Superior Casing Crews, 299 F.Supp. 725, 731 (E.D. La. 1969) (Pursuant to Section 211(c), the FLSA requires the employer “to keep accurate time and wage records” and the employer thus ......
  • Rousseau v. Teledyne Movible Offshore, Inc., Civ. A. No. 83-2553.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Western District of Louisiana
    • October 18, 1985
    ...When the barges were docked the employer was not producing any income. This case is distinguishable from Smith v. Superior Casing Crews, 299 F.Supp. 725 (E.D.La.1969). In Smith the court awarded the plaintiffs compensation for all time spent riding on boats to and from offshore rigs and all......

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