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Harris v. Liberty Oilfield Services, LLC

United States District Court, D. Colorado

January 17, 2018

PHILLIP HARRIS, individually and for other similarly situated, Plaintiff,



         The matter is before the Court on the Parties' competing motions for summary judgment (Doc. ## 32, 33), wherein they dispute whether Plaintiff Phillip Harris was exempt from the protections of the Fair Labor Standard Act (FLSA) when he worked as a field engineer for Defendant Liberty Oilfield Services. Because the record clearly supports that Plaintiff was exempt, such that no reasonable juror could find otherwise, the Court grants Defendant's motion, denies Plaintiff's motion, and dismisses this case.


         Summary judgment is warranted when “the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A fact is “material” if it is essential to the proper disposition of the claim under the relevant substantive law. Wright v. Abbott Labs., Inc., 259 F.3d 1226, 1231-32 (10th Cir. 2001). A dispute is “genuine” if the evidence is such that it might lead a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Allen v. Muskogee, Okl., 119 F.3d 837, 839 (10th Cir. 1997). When reviewing motions for summary judgment, a court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Id. However, conclusory statements based merely on conjecture, speculation, or subjective belief do not constitute competent summary judgment evidence. Bones v. Honeywell Int'l, Inc., 366 F.3d 869, 875 (10th Cir. 2004).


         Defendant is a fracking company that provides customized frac design and execution for clients at oil drilling sites to improve efficiencies, reduce costs, and minimize health, safety, and environmental impact. (Doc. # 39 at 1.) To support this effort, Defendant employs field engineers at each drilling site. (Doc. # 32 at 2.) Plaintiff worked as a salaried field engineer for Defendant from November 2014 to February 2016. (Id. at 6.) His starting salary was $72, 000, and he worked in the field for two weeks on and two weeks off each month. (Doc. # 32-2 at 6.)

         As a field engineer, Plaintiff monitored raw materials used during the frac process by collecting real time data using software called Fracpro. (Doc. # 39 at 2.) Among other things, he was required to track changes to well pressure, pumping rate, sand concentration, and fluid type. (Id.) On a moment-by-moment basis, he would “grab” pertinent data and values from Fracpro and create an Excel report for the client's representative at the drilling site. (Doc. # 32-2 at 18.) Based on that report, the client's representative would direct changes to the frac process. (Id.) According to Defendant, field engineers, like Plaintiff, made “real-time decisions” that affected “everything that is going on” at the drilling site; it was “critical” that he understood the engineering design and physics behind the frac process. (Doc. ## 32-1 at 3; 32-3 at 1.)

         Plaintiff was terminated from his position for “job abandonment” in February 2016. (Doc. ## 32 at 8; 33 at 8.) He was thereafter employed as a project manager by Rick Engineering, a land development and construction company, and salaried at $125, 000 annually. (Doc. # 39 at 6.)

         In May 2016, Plaintiff initiated this lawsuit as a collective action against Defendant alleging primarily that Defendant failed to pay him, and other field engineers, for overtime as required under the FLSA. (Doc. # 1.) In January 2017, this Court conditionally certified the lawsuit as a collective action pursuant to § 216(b) of the FLSA. (Doc. # 24.) Notice was mailed to eighty-two potential collective action members and no other persons opted into this suit. (Doc. # 32 at 2.)

         The Parties have since filed the instant motions for summary judgment. (Doc. ## 32, 33.) They raise one crucial issue for the Court's consideration-whether Plaintiff's employment as a field engineer falls within one of the exemptions under the FLSA and thereby disqualifies him from the FLSA's overtime protections.


         The FLSA requires employers to pay covered employees one and one-half times the regular hourly rate for each hour worked above forty per workweek. 29 U.S.C. § 207(a)(1). Certain employees, however, are exempt from this protection. Id.

         To be exempt, an employee's “primary duty” must be the performance of exempt work. 29 C.F.R. § 541.700. The term “primary duty” means the “principal, main, major or most important” duty that the employee performs. Id. “Determination of an employee's primary duty must be based on all the facts in a particular case, with the major emphasis on the character of the employee's job as a whole.” Id. The FLSA specifically exempts any employee who performs his primary duties in a bona fide (1) professional or (2) administrative capacity. 29 U.S.C. § 213(a)(1).

         A. ...

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