Lawyer Claims Oil Service Firm Did Him Wrong

     DALLAS (CN) – A Dallas attorney claims in court that Norway-based Petroleum Geo-Services fired him for being too old and for refusing to perform an illegal act.
     F.W. Burnett Jr., 69, sued the marine geophysics firm and Houston-based PGS Americas in Dallas County Court.
     Burnett says he was fired in June, and that during his 5-year tenure, he was the only attorney in the defendants’ legal department that was paid and treated as an independent contractor.
     Burnett claims he was “in fact an employee,” working four days a week in Houston, where he was provided a large office with his name on the door and required to attend all employee meetings. He worked one day a week from Dallas.
     Burnett says his trouble began in 2009 when he prepared a memorandum on serious problems with a proposed agreement form the defendants were about to enter into with an unspecified client, described as “one of its most valued.”
     Burnett claims he warned that the seismic technology that was the subject of the contract was untested and new, though the contract assumed it to be “mature, proven technology.”
     “Heavy fines and penalties are possible in a number of circumstances, including delays in the installation of the monitoring equipment and delays in the information gathering components and operation of the system,” the 11-page complaint states. “Plaintiff was concerned the defendants had fraudulently over-represented the maturity and proven nature of the technology in order to win the bidding contest over others who also bid.”
     Burnett says he was fired for refusing to commit fraud and break criminal law by lying about the Life of Field Seismic technology, and for warning two of the defendants’ employees who now are in charge of the project.
     He adds that his supervisor, attorney James E. Brasher, was fired in May and that he was 65 years old.
     “Plaintiff and Brasher were replaced by Maria Ragazzo, a female attorney in her 40s,” the complaint states. “The remaining attorneys were substantially younger than plaintiff and Brasher. Plaintiff and Brasher were terminated in favor of younger attorneys.”
     Burnett also claims he was strung along with promises of continuing work as an independent contractor out of Dallas, but that the $5,000 in expected billings per month never materialized.
     “Plaintiff believes that he was promised continuing work so he would continue to facilitate the transition of legal departments in Houston from Brasher management and control to Ragazzo management and control,” the complaint states.
     Founded in 1991, PGS helps oil companies find oil and gas reserves offshore, and provides seismic and electromagnetic services, data acquisition, processing, reservoir analysis/interpretation and multi-client library data, according to its website.
     Burnett seeks actual and punitive damages for breach of contract, age discrimination and wrongful discharge, under Sabine Pilot Service Inc. v. Hauck, 687 S.W.2d 733 (1985).
     He is represented by Theodore Anderson with Kilgore Kilgore of Dallas.

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