oil well rigThe Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed a complaint against a Purcell -based drilling contractor, alleging the contractor has discriminated against job applicants older than 40 years of age and those who had filed workers’ compensation claims.According to the EEOC, Horizontal Well Drillers LLC violated federal age and disability discrimination laws in its hiring process. The EEOC has continued to allege that Horizontal Well Drillers LLC placed notations on job applications about family medical history, age and previous disability of workers’ compensation claims.

According to the EEOC complaint, CEO at the company, Steve Akerman, reviewed all applications for rig positions including motorhand, floorhand and derrickhand. The applications had been highlighted by staff concerning age, medical and family medical history and were then handed over to Akerman. The CEO looked through the applications and destroyed and application that did not meet his requirements. Authorities have said that the company had a policy of not interviewing any applicants that have made workers’ compensation claims in the past.

The EEOC’s complaint stated, “As part of the company’s hiring process, Horizontal Well Drillers routinely engaged a third-party vendor to perform a workers’ compensation background search on all applicants before the applicant’s scheduled interview and before a conditional offer of employment was made to the applicant.” The EEOC’s complaint listed at least three applicants that had experience in the industry, were over the age of 40 or had prior work-related injuries that were not hired. The complaint continued to state, “Akerman told at least one subordinate employee that he did not believe that people age 40 or older are able to learn horizontal drilling and that he would not hire them for positions on the oil rigs, even if they have drilling experience.”

The investigation into Horizontal Well Drilling LLC came after a complaint made by an applicant Wilbert Glover in April of 2013. Glover accused the company of discrimination on the grounds of medical history after the company hired him as a derrickhand and directed him to take a medical exam and lift test. Glover was cleared by a company doctor to work, but he was later discharged after receiving a report that noted the Glover suffered from high blood pressure according to the EEOC’s complaint.

Pre-litigation settlement attempts failed between the EEOC and Horizontal Well Drilling LLC, so in turn, the EEOC issued a notice to Horizontal Well Drilling LLC of failure of conciliation in Dec. of 2016. In its complaint, the EEOC seeks back pay as well as liquidated, compensatory and punitive damages. The EEOC also wants an injunction to prevent any future discrimination in the company’s hiring process. “Using stereotypes about age and disabilities to screen out applicants for high-paying oil field jobs cannot be tolerated,” James R. Neely Jr., director of the EEOC’s St. Louis District office that covers Oklahoma, said in a news release. “Hiring qualified people with experience and ability makes sense. Refusing to hire such people because of their age or previous work-related injuries does not.”

Horizontal Well Drillers operates drilling rigs in Oklahoma, Kansas, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Mexico, according to its website. The company was among three companies who won a contract last year from the Venezuelan government to drill horizontal wells in the Orinoco Belt.

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Employment Law

Whether you are entering the job market for the first time or were recently terminated, it is important to understand your rights as a worker. Both federal and state governments have enacted a wide range of employment laws protecting employees from discriminatory treatment, unfair labor practices, unsafe work conditions, and more. This section provides in-depth resources on all phases of the employment process — from the interview and hiring stage to promotion and termination. In addition, you’ll find information about privacy in the workplace, wage and hour laws, workplace safety and family leave policies.

Employment law governs the rights and responsibilities of employers and employees. Most of the laws and statutes that fall under employment law are meant to protect the employee from unfair and unsafe working conditions, but they also help to protect employers.

One large section of employment law deals with the “At Will” Presumption. In nearly every state in the US, it is presumed that both employer and employee are working together voluntarily, and can terminate their working relationship at any time, and for almost any reason.

Working environments can be chaotic and complex. The law offices of Jones Brown wants to make sure you are aware of your rights as an employee or employer. If you feel you have been wrongfully treated at work or on a job, our experienced attorneys know exactly what to do. Here are some common examples of employment law:

  • Collective bargaining
  • Employment discrimination
  • Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA)
  • Unemployment compensation
  • Pensions
  • Workplace safety
  • Worker’s compensation



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