Many workers face risks in their jobs. Maritime workers including seaman, longshoreman, and boat captains face unique perils in the scope of their employment. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported that maritime workers face fatal injuries at a rate 5 times that of the overall U.S. workforce. When tragedy strikes and leaves one of these workers injured, their lives are often forever changed. Maritime law offers important remedies to these individuals that make it possible to begin rebuilding their lives.
A common option for an injured seaman is filing a claim under the Jones Act. The Jones act is a federal law remedy that provides seaman with compensation for injuries they sustained while working on a vessel. The Jones Act is unique from other maritime claims in that it allows a plaintiff to sue their employer individually for negligence. The fact that the worker’s employer is named as the defendant in a Jones Act claim may cause some plaintiffs to worry about the effects filing a claim will have on their job.
Can my employer fire me for filing a Jones Act claim?
The unfortunate truth is that a maritime employer may choose to fire a worker who files a Jones Act claim. However, this does not mean that the employer has the legal right to take this action. Louisiana and many other gulf coast states are classified as “at will” employment states. This means that an employer can fire their employees for any reason or no reason at all.
However, an employer will be held liable if it is discovered that they fired an employee for filing a Jones Act claim. The law protects an employee from being fired for seeking to recover what he is owed under the law or from being threatened to not seek legal remedies for their injuries.
Discharging an employee for bringing a maritime personal injury claim is known as a retaliatory discharge and is prohibited by general maritime law. If an employer does choose to pursue a retaliatory discharge, the employee may sue for additional compensation. To prevail in a maritime retaliatory discharge claim, the plaintiff must prove that the employer’s decision to fire him was substantially influenced by the seaman’s lawsuit or their intent to file a lawsuit.
What damages may I recover in a retaliatory discharge claim?
A plaintiff may bring their maritime retaliatory discharge claim with their Jones Act claim. They may seek damages such as:
- The expense of finding a new job
- Lost earnings while finding a new job
- Lost future earnings if their new job pays less than when employed by the defendant
- Damages for mental anguish
A retaliatory discharge will give the plaintiff a separate claim apart from their Jones Act claim to receive these damages.
Maritime employees play a crucial role in sustaining life along the gulf coast. In doing so, they subject themselves to extreme risk and danger of physical injury. The Jones Act is an important remedy available to assist these employees if they are subjected to an unfortunate accident at sea.
The experienced maritime personal injury attorneys at Scott Vicknair are ready to protect these employees from being punished for exercising their legal rights and to ensure that they are properly compensated by their employer. Contact one of our maritime attorneys at Scott Vicknair at 504-500-1111 for a free consultation on your maritime injury claim today.