March 30, 2016 / ROV

When do the overtime rules of the Fair Labor Standards Act not apply to marine workers? In one recent Louisiana case, a judge dismissed the case of an ROV operator, Kyle Halle, who lobbied for overtime against his employer. The results of this ruling shows us the particularities of the FLSA, as well as potential murky areas when it comes to defining a crewmember's job.

According to the official filings related to the case, Halle operated remotely from a renovated shipping container onboard a vessel on a series of four week-long shifts. He argued that he deserved overtime compensation because of the extra hours he worked, which would be covered by the FLSA. Under this rule, the United States Department of Labor requires that employers pay their workers at least time and a half rates if they work more than 40 hours per week.

"The case became a question of whether the plaintiff qualified as a seaman."

However, the Act doesn't apply to active seamen. As the filings further note, the case became a question of whether or not the plaintiff qualified. While Halle claimed he was an industrial worker, not a seaman, the former employer said that he should have qualified because of the nature of his work.

The judge ultimately ruled that Halle's work did, in fact, exclude him from FLSA protections. W. Brett Mason of Stone Pigman Walther Wittman LLC commented on the ruling and what it may mean for employers.

"The judge found that Halle was a seaman for purposes of the FLSA's overtime wage requirements, because the ROV he operated was an essential appurtenance to the support vessel, which contributed to the mission of the vessel," Wittman stated.

He added that "maritime employers should know that ROV Technicians/Supervisors assigned to a ROV support vessel are not entitled to overtime wages under the FSLA." 

Insurance for ROV may be more appropriate if it comes from a knowledgeable firm that knows the complexities of the industry, as acknowledging specific risks could make an ROV policy more effective.

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