Title

Tony Weiler on the Bakken Oil Boom

Document Type

News Article

Publication Date

9-2011

Campus Unit

School of Law

Abstract

Bakken Boom: How the Increase in Oil Activity Impacts Wage and Hour Enforcement

Tony J. Weiler, Labor Commissioner of North Dakota

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

12:10 - 1:10 p.m., School of Law, Baker Courtroom

Approved for 1 hour CLE credit in ND.

Tony WeilerTony J. Weiler, Commissioner of Labor, North Dakota Department of Labor, will be presenting Bakken Boom: How the Increase in Oil Activity Impacts Wage and Hour Enforcement at the School of Law. This presentation will discuss the impact of oil drilling in western North Dakota and related complaints for wage and hour law violations investigated by his agency. Commissioner Weiler is a 1998 graduate of the UND School of Law. The event is free and open to the public.

Grand Forks Herald coverage, September 28, 2011 - original article

Oil boom boosts labor claims

Most disputes about overtime, travel and training pay

The oil boom in western North Dakota has led to a significant increase in wage and labor claims filed with the state, Labor Commissioner Tony Weiler said, and that's likely to continue to grow with the industry.

By: Chuck Haga, Grand Forks Herald

The oil boom in western North Dakota has led to a significant increase in wage and labor claims filed with the state, Labor Commissioner Tony Weiler said today, and that's likely to continue to grow with the industry.

Speaking at UND's School of Law, Weiler said wage claims settled through his department totaled $216,216 in the first eight months of this year, already above the $213,174 in claims logged in all of 2010.

"It's no secret we're seeing an oil boom that a lot of people believe will last years and years," he said, which will bring more workers, more employers — and likely more wage disputes.

Many of the claims that come to his department involve disputes about overtime pay and pay for training and travel time, he said. Other claims involve "employee misclassification, such as calling a person an independent contractor when they really are an employee."

Requirements for paying overtime, providing breaks and other matters are different for independent contractors as opposed to outright employees, Weiler said.

Many of the new workers and companies operating in western North Dakota are from other states, and that can complicate resolution of disputes over wages, benefits and working conditions, he said. "The laws in Wyoming and Oklahoma and Texas are different from our laws in North Dakota," he said. "I get five or six of these cases a week in my office."

He said the rapid growth of oil activity has made it "difficult for me to get out there to talk with people," There usually is no place to stay in Williston and other Oil Patch cities, he said, and local officials dealing with labor issues "are very busy."

Weiler said there isn't much he can do about such chronic problems as businesses not being able to find workers and workers not being able to find affordable housing.

CNN Money is the latest national media outlet to ballyhoo the state's labor market:

"Believe it or not, a place exists where companies are hiring like crazy, and you can make $15 an hour serving tacos, $25 an hour waiting tables and $80,000 a year driving trucks," according to a story posted today on its web site. http://money.cnn.com/2011/09/28/pf/north_dakota_jobs/index.htm "You just have to move to North Dakota."

The story notes that entry-level jobs "from restaurants and grocery stores to convenience stores and local banks pay a minimum of $12 per hour, according to the McKenzie County Job Development Authority. Truck drivers make an average of $70,000 to $80,000 a year.

"Taco John's, a Western fast-food chain, has increased its pay from $8.50 an hour to $15 an hour in Williston to hold on to its workers during its busiest shifts. It's also trying to keep pace with competitors, including the Subway and Hardee's down the street, said general manager Christie Smith. The Taco John's currently has more than 15 open positions and Smith said she has only turned down one applicant this year, 'because he just looked too scruffy.'"

Share

COinS