WASHINGTON—The Supreme Court unanimously rejected a California-based offshore oil rig worker’s claim that he should be paid for off-the-clock time on the oil platforms, as California law requires, because federal law alone governs the facilities that are based on the Outer Continental Shelf.
After Texas and North Dakota, California is the third-largest oil-producing state. Oil is reportedly produced on 32 offshore platforms and artificial islands in Southern California alone.
The ruling, which overturns a decision by the oft-reversed 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, is a victory for the Trump administration, which sided with the employer in the case, Houston, Texas-based company Parker Drilling Management Services Ltd.
The financial claim was brought by Brian Newton, who worked on the company’s drilling platforms in the Santa Barbara Channel from 2013 to 2015. Newton worked 14-day segments, with 12 hours on duty and 12 hours off on what his attorneys call “controlled standby.” A number of employees shared his schedule, but others worked the other 12-hour shifts, which let the platforms function 24 hours a day.
Newton was given his base pay for the first 40 hours each week, plus 44 hours at the overtime rate. He also was compensated for travel time to and from the platform, as well as for time spent debriefing alternating crew members. Newton wanted to be paid for off-work time spent at the facility, including sleeping. Federal law doesn’t require employers to cover off-work time but California law does. Newton alleged the company violated state minimum wage laws, didn’t pay double-time rates, and failed to offer meal breaks. read more