Are ROV Technicians Seamen Exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act? An Analysis of Halle v. Galliano Marine Service, L.L.C.

Note by Jacob J. Pritt

Kyle Halle worked for over six years as a remote operated vehicle (ROV) technician and supervisor for C-Innovation and Galliano Marine Service, L.L.C. (defendants), businesses specializing in offshore services. Specifically, the defendants provided ROVs to assist in the repair and maintenance of underwater components of offshore oil rigs. As a supervisor and technician, Halle executed his tasks from a support vessel, a ship uniquely outfitted to carry ROVs and their crew to the offshore site of the rigs and facilitate their operations when they arrived. ROV technicians like Halle control the ROV from command centers on the support vessel, communicating with the crew of the support vessel only occasionally and briefly to relay destinations. Additionally, Halle and his colleagues were not accountable to the crew of the support vessel, instead having their own chain of command onshore.

After he stopped working for the defendants, Halle sued them to recover unpaid overtime wages from his time as their employee. Halle sought to recover under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), claiming he was entitled to overtime payment for weeks during which he worked more than forty hours. On average, Halle and other ROV technicians work about eighty-four hours per week during weeks they are on duty. The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants, holding that Halle was a seaman as a matter of law and thus exempt from the FLSA's overtime provisions. After the district court denied Halle's motion for reconsideration, he appealed. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit held that ROV technicians do not qualify as seamen in accordance with the FLSA as a matter of law, suggesting that ROV technicians are likely outside the scope of Congress's intended exemption of seamen from FLSA overtime protections.

About the Author

J.D. candidate 2019, Tulane University Law School; B.A. 2016, Harvard University.


92 Tul. L. Rev. 1169 (2018)