Offshore Worker Entitled to Overtime Pay, Supreme Court Rules

(Image Source: Helix Energy Solutions Group)

In a decision setting an expensive precedent for the oil and gas industry, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled an oil rig supervisor – who earned more than $200,000 a year working for Houston-based Helix Energy Solutions Group, Inc. – is entitled to overtime pay.

The Court determined in a 6-3 decision that the rig supervisor, Michael Hewitt, was not exempted from overtime pay under federal law. Hewitt was paid a daily rate of $963, instead of a salary, making the exemption inapplicable. 

The exemption in question holds that “highly-compensated” workers (defined as those earning $107,000 a year or more) would not be eligible for overtime pay if they have supervisory duties, and are paid a minimum of $455 per week. However, Justice Elena Kagan stated in the majority opinion the statute definitely excluded employees who are paid based on days worked without guaranteed minimum weekly wages.

Helix was backed in the case by oil and gas trade groups including the American Petroleum Institute, and argued in briefs to the justices that the compensation was standard for supervisors in the industry, and a ruling in Hewitt’s favor would encourage many more suits from highly paid workers.

This ruling affirms a 2021 ruling by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordering Helix to confront Hewitt’s 2017 lawsuit seeking overtime pay, which now will be heard by federal judge in Houston.

To read the Supreme Court Opinion click here.

We at Herd law firm applaud the decision, and have represented such offshore workers when they become injured, as their work is difficult and technical.

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