HOUSTON - A former Halliburton Corp worker sued the oilfield services company this week to recover overtime wages he said were illegally withheld from the company's workers in Iraq.
In a civil lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Houston, Sammie Curry Smith, Jr. said he often worked more than 80 hours per week as a heating and ventilation systems mechanic beginning in January for KBR, Halliburton's engineering and construction unit.
KBR, the U.S. military's largest private contractor in Iraq, has been investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice for its billing practices in Iraq regarding alleged overcharges for fuel and costs of food services provided to troops.
Smith, who earned a base salary of $4,004 per month, including a 55 percent premium for "danger pay", was paid only his regular wage rate for the extra hours, according to the lawsuit.
Lawyers for Smith said on Friday he and other employees had to sign an agreement that they would not be paid at the 150 percent rate for overtime hours that is required by U.S. law.
"We believe it was not just Mr. Smith but a substantial number of employees that were not paid fairly," said Melissa Moore, a lawyer representing Smith.
Halliburton, which was formerly headed by Vice President Dick Cheney, said it believed the lawsuit was based on an incorrect interpretation of law and was without merit.
"Also, it is certainly our practice to pay all of our employees what they are entitled to and if we found we had not we would rectify the situation," Halliburton spokeswoman Wendy Hall said in an e-mail response to a question.
KBR has typically had more than 20,000 employees and subcontractors working in Iraq and Kuwait under its contracts to provide logistics services to U.S. troops there and to help rebuild the country's oil infrastructure.
No figures on the total number of employees that have worked in Iraq have been provided.
To date, 55 Halliburton workers have been killed in Iraq and more than 100 injured.
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