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A Texas-based oilfield service giant has agreed to pay nearly $18.3 million in back overtime wages to more than 1,000 U.S. employees, following a federal investigation.

The U.S. Department of Labor announced Tuesday that Halliburton will pay up after investigators found the Houston-based company erroneously categorized workers in 28 positions as exempt from overtime, meaning that field service representatives, pipe recovery specialists, drilling tech advisers and others were not properly paid when they worked more than 40 hours in a week.

The agency said those errors — and the company’s failure to keep accurate records of those employees’ hours — violated the 77-year-old Fair Labor Standards Act.

More than 380 Texans will get more than $6.54 million in back wages, the agency said.

“This settlement will put millions of dollars where they belong – in the pockets of hardworking people and their families,” U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez said in a statement. “Employers who don’t pay their employees the wages they have earned don’t just hurt their workers, they undercut employers who play by the rules.”

Halliburton discovered during a self-audit that some of its jobs were misclassified as exempt, a company spokeswoman said.

“The company re-classified the identified positions, and throughout this process, Halliburton has worked earnestly and cooperatively with the U.S. Department of Labor to equitably resolve this situation,” the spokeswoman, Susie McMichael, wrote in an email.

The government investigation was part of a larger federal effort to crack down on oil and gas companies who aren’t properly paying their workers — a common practice on the drilling fields of Texas and beyond. Those probes have uncovered hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid wages elsewhere, but the Halliburton case was one of the largest recoveries in recent years, the department said.

Last June, for instance, the department announced the recovery of $157,000 for 188 employees of San Antonio-based Elite Production Services LLC.

In the 2013 and 2014 budget years, the labor department’s Southwest region identified more than $15 million in unpaid wages to more than 8,400 oil and gas industry employees.

JIM MALEWITZ reports for The Texas Tribune where this story was originally published. It is made available here through a news partnership between the Texas Tribune and the San Marcos Mercury.


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