Working on a cruise ship is a unique experience. However, like any job, it can end in termination. Firing ship employees frequently is a relatively standard practice for cruise lines. Most cruise ships employ workers temporarily, often hiring them on a contractual basis for six to eleven months.
A cruise ship job differs from others in that not only do you lose your job, but you also lose your living space. An immediate need arises to return to your home country. This necessity adds to the stress of losing your job.
You may believe the cruise ship wrongfully terminated you. Cruise lines usually take immediate steps to avert what they perceive as any employee discord or disloyalty. If the cruise ship company thinks you are making waves, it might terminate your employment and try to find someone to replace you.
Louis A. Vucci P.A. offers experienced, skilled legal representation to cruise ship employees wrongfully terminated by a cruise line. We can help you overcome the stress and uncertainty of suddenly losing your job. You have rights, and we can help you protect them. Call (786) 375-0344 today or contact us online to schedule a free, confidential consultation.
Employment At Will
Your cruise ship employment contract likely classifies your job as “at-will” employment. In effect, your job is at the will of the employer. Unfortunately, this contract provision gives your employer the right to fire you without cause. However, there are available options if a cruise ship wrongfully terminates you. Determining your legal rights in this situation is complex, but an experienced cruise ship lawyer can help.
While at-will employment allows an employer to fire you without cause, an employer cannot fire you for an illegal reason. Wrongful termination occurs when an employer fires an employee, violating the law. If you believe a cruise ship line wrongfully terminated your employment, you can file a claim or lawsuit seeking compensation for your losses. These losses or damages include lost wages and attorney’s fees.
But what law applies to an alleged wrongful termination? When considering the rights of cruise ship workers, many U.S. and international laws may conflict and overlap. Determining which rule applies to a potential crew member’s claim often requires a detailed analysis of intertwined and convoluted statutes and procedures.
If your wrongful termination claim is successful, you might receive compensation for past and future medical bills, lost wages, lost earning capacity, physical pain, emotional distress, and temporary or permanent disability.
Whistleblowing laws protect employees who report conduct or circumstances that are unlawful or dangerous to public safety. These laws also apply to whistleblowing on a cruise ship. An employer cannot fire you for whistleblowing.
In cases involving wrongful termination where an employer retaliates against you for whistleblowing or some other action, you must prove:
- You were engaged in a legally protected activity, such as formally complaining about discrimination or harassment.
- The activity prompted your employer to act adversely, such as giving you notice of termination.
- You suffered adverse effects due to the employer’s action. The employer fired you, denied you a promotion, or gave you an unwarranted negative performance review.
Why Is It So Difficult to Sue Cruise Ships?
Cruise line workers consistently experience challenges suing their employers. Almost all ocean cruise lines use vessels registered under the flags of foreign countries. Each ship is typically subject to the laws of the country where it is registered.
Otherwise, cruise ship employment contracts may use a choice of forum provision to dictate the law governing the underlying agreement. Additionally, workers agree to settle most, if not all, employment disputes through arbitration rather than litigation when they sign their employment contracts.
When your dispute goes to arbitration, an arbitrator hired by the cruise ship line makes the final decision. Using arbitration instead of the United States judicial system to resolve a grievance often produces an unfavorable result. Exploring your options and hiring a seasoned attorney to protect your interests and provide guidance is critical.
Because your employment is at-will, cruise ships might not hesitate to fire you for the slightest transgression, mistake, or comment. Cruise lines often fail to follow their established internal procedures for dealing with employees who violate some work rule, regulation, or policy. Overcoming this disadvantage is a monumental task for any crew member. A cruise ship injury attorney can even the odds and assert your rights before a judge or arbitrator.
If you Work on a Ship Flying Under an American Flag
United States laws apply to anyone working for a cruise ship registered under an American flag. Laws like the Jones Act and Seaman’s Protection Act also apply to cruise lines with a principal place of business or base of operations in the United States.
The Jones Act is a U.S. law that applies to maritime workers who meet the Act’s definition of “seaman.” Generally, a seaman provides a service rendered primarily as an aid in the operation of a vessel as a means of transportation. Courts broadly interpret who is a seaman under the Jones Act. For example, courts have held that cooks are seamen under the Jones Act.
The Seaman’s Protection Act also provides maritime workers, including cruise ship employees, with safeguards for retaliatory termination. An employer cannot fire you in retaliation without potential consequences.
The law protects you from wrongful, retaliatory termination if a cruise line fires you because:
- You refused to perform duties because you had a reasonable apprehension or expectation that performing your duties would result in serious injury to you or others.
- You notified or attempted to report a work-related personal injury or work-related illness to the cruise lines.
- You filed a claim with or furnished information to the federal government about a claim for benefits for a work-related illness or personal injury.
If you Work on a Ship Flying Under a Foreign Flag
The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) is a trade association with 50+ members, including Royal Caribbean International, Carnival Cruise Lines, Costa Cruise Lines, and Norwegian Cruise Lines. Members of the CLIA comply with the Maritime Labour Convention (“MLC”). This agreement sets guidelines for the lawful and fair treatment of any person who works in any capacity on board a ship. These guidelines include provisions that give you the right to fair terms in your employment contract. The MLC also gives you the right to repatriation if your employer terminates you for any reason, regardless of whether the termination is legal.
If a Cruise Ship Violates Your Rights
According to the MLC, member cruise ships must implement onboard procedures for the fair, effective, and expeditious processing of complaints alleging breaches of crew members’ rights or other MLC regulations.
Cruise lines may not practice any form of “victimization” upon you or other crew members. This term refers to retaliation for any adverse action a cruise line company takes against a crew member who lodges a complaint that isn’t groundless or malicious.
The Right to Legal Representation
Although the language is not explicit, you have the right to an attorney under the Maritime Labour Convention agreement. CLIA-member cruise lines may not infringe upon a cruise ship member’s right to seek justice through whatever legal means the crew member considers appropriate. The cruise ship’s onboard complaint procedures must give crew members the right to representation during the complaint procedure. A cruise ship must also provide policies that safeguard against the possibility of victimization of crew members for filing complaints.
If your wrongful termination claim is subject to U.S. law, you also have the right to counsel provided to you by the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. This right to an attorney is one of Americans’ most valuable rights. Don’t be afraid to assert this right or any other constitutional right.
The Daily Pressures That Cruise Ship Workers Face
Cruise lines expect cruise ship workers to accept the conditions of their employment without question or criticism. Unfortunately, most cruise ship workers need to learn about the safeguards that exist to protect them when cruise lines wrongfully discharge them. These workers do their daily jobs afraid to speak up or complain, with feelings of powerlessness, although unsafe conditions exist for passengers and workers alike.
Cruise-ship employees, like anyone else, want to continue working. Voicing a concern or complaint will likely result in the cruise line declining to renew their employment contracts once they expire. You should not have to be afraid for your job just for speaking up about mistreatment. If you have suffered injuries while working on a cruise ship, you should speak with a capable, informed cruise ship injury lawyer.
Was Your Employment on a Cruise Ship Terminated? Contact Louis A. Vucci P.A. Today
If you believe your cruise ship employer wrongfully terminated you, you have rights, and legal help is available. Call Louis A. Vucci P.A. at (786) 375-0344 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. Level the playing field against a cruise line that causes harm to passengers and workers due to illegal conduct such as wrongful termination. Put our firm’s extensive experience to work for you!