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Maritime Employment Claims for Retaliation

Maritime employers are not permitted to retaliate or blacklist employees for bringing Jones Act claims or otherwise exercising their legal rights for maintenance, cure, or unearned wages under general maritime law. If maritime employers terminate or otherwise take adverse employment action against an employee for exercising their rights under the Jones Act, the employee may bring a claim for damages against the employer. Recoverable damages include back pay, future pay, damages for harm to the reputation of the employee, damages for mental anguish, and even punitive damages.

For example, in Smith v. Blake Offshore, LLC, 2009 U.S. Dist. Lexis 12301, the court held that a seaman could bring a claim against his employer under general maritime law for retaliation when the employer took action against the seaman for exercising his rights under the Jones Act. To prevail in the action, the seaman must establish that “the employer’s decision was motivated in substantial part by the knowledge that the seaman either intends to file, or has already filed, a personal injury action against the employer.” Thus, an employee need only establish that the adverse employment action was motivated in substantial part by the seaman’s exercise of rights under the Jones Act, not that it was the only motivation for the adverse employment action.

Likewise, the practice of blacklisting employees or refusing to renew contracts of employees that bring claims under the Jones Act or general maritime law is not permitted and is considered a tortious interference with potential contractual and business relationships for future employment. Such action gives rise to a claim for damages and even punitive damages. See, e.g., Pino v. Protection Maritime Ins. Co., 599 F.2d 10 (1st Cir. 1979); Carroll v. Protection Maritime Ins. Co., Ltd., 512 F.2d 4 (1st Cir. 1975).

If you believe you were terminated because you exercised your right to bring a claim under the Jones Act or general maritime law, it is important to gather evidence that would support your position that your employer’s decision to terminate you was motivated in substantial part by your exercise of your legal rights. What reason did your employer give for the termination? Did the reason make sense or was it a pretext? Did the employer put the reasons for your termination in writing? Ask for a written explanation for your termination from your employer. Were other employees terminated for similar conduct? How long did the termination occur after you exercised your legal rights under the Jones Act or general maritime law? Have you heard supervisors telling people that they would be terminated or treated differently if they brought a claim? Are there any win Have other employees been terminated for exercising their legal rights under the Jones Act?

It is important to consult with an experienced maritime employment attorney if you believe that you were terminated for exercising your legal rights under the Jones Act or general maritime law. Our experienced maritime lawyers offer a free consultation to seamen, fishermen, or other maritime workers who believe they were terminated because of their exercise of their legal rights under the Jones Act. Contact us today for a free case evaluation to discuss the merits of your claim.