As a maritime employer, you face substantial risks when on-duty. While many of those risks are inherent of the job and hard to avoid, others exist because of the employer’s neglect or carelessness.
If you notice a safety violation or hazard, you may consider reporting it to the appropriate authorities. However, you may also worry about employer retaliation. Retaliation can be a termination of employment or discrimination. The good news is that, like with workers’ comp, there are laws in place to protect you against this very thing.
The Seaman’s Protection Act
According to the United States Department of Labor, the Seaman’s Protection Act, 46 U.S.C. §2114, protects maritime employers against retaliation in certain situations. The act may protect you if you do the following:
- You report to the appropriate authority and in good faith a supposed violation of a maritime safety law or regulation
- You notify or attempt to notify a vessel owner or the Secretary of a work-related injury or illness
- You refuse to perform one or several duties because you have a reasonable belief that performing said duty would result in injury to you, another seaman or the public
- You testify in a legal proceeding brought for the purposes of enforcing a safety regulation or maritime law
- You cooperate with an investigation headed by the National Transportation Safety Board or the Secretary
- You furnish information regarding a maritime incident that resulted in injury, death or damage to property
If your employer discharges or discriminates against you for doing any of the above, you may be able to seek legal recourse through the act.
To qualify for protections under the Seaman’s Protection Act, one of two things must be true. The first is that you attempted but failed to get your employer to fix the unsafe condition. The second applies only if you refused to do one or several duties requested of you. If this is the case, you must be able to show that any other reasonable person under similar circumstances would have done the same. This person must agree that performing the duty would have resulted in serious injury, impairment or illness.