- Associated Press - Monday, February 9, 2015

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - A Utah woman who worked in the North Dakota oil fields was stripped of her job, paid less than her male counterparts and threatened because she’s a woman, according to a lawsuit filed Monday in federal district court.

Minneapolis-based Halunen Law filed the lawsuit on behalf of Cindy Marchello, of Ogden, Utah, who worked for C&J; Energy Services Inc. until she left in October. Clayton Halunen, a managing partner at the law firm, said he believes Marchello is not alone and that many more women will come forward with stories of discrimination in the oil patch.

A representative from C&J; Energy Services said Monday the company declined to comment on the matter.

In her lawsuit, Marchello says that she started working for the Texas-based oil company in Williston as a pump operator in October of 2012 but was later pulled and switched to a desk job. She lost her field job, she says, after an official from company client Kodiak Oil and Gas told her boss that he didn’t like women working in the field.

Marchello says she pleaded to get her old job back, which was on track to pay about $120,000 annually, but that her manager told her it was “too dangerous” and “too cold” for her in the field.

While on her desk job, in which she says she could earn less than half her original pay, Manchello says learned she was being paid $2 less than men with “equivalent experience and tenure with the company.” When she complained, she says her supervisor told her to “shut her mouth” if she wanted to keep her job.

She says a new supervisor also told her she will “suffer a cruel, slow death at my hands” after she suggested they “have to get along.”

Eventually, Marchello filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, but says company representatives threatened to cut her benefits and pay. Shortly after, she resigned because she was “stressed and fearing for her health and well-being.”

While he said he’s not familiar with other similar lawsuits, Halunen, Marchello’s attorney, said he believes gender discrimination in the oil fields is a problem

“We’ve heard that this is very common, as far as the way women are treated. So we expect that once this becomes public, other people are going to come forward,” he said. “We’re quite confident that this is very widespread.”

Marchello filed a new complaint with federal EEOC recently, Halunen said, contesting the alleged retaliation and forced termination she faced. Halunen said that complaint will be folded into their lawsuit in the coming weeks.

Marchello is still unemployed and living in Utah, Halunen said. She’s not able to comment because of the pending litigation.

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