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Legal Blog

Can I Lose My Job For Making a Jones Act Claim?

Those working on and with seafaring vessels have special considerations when it comes to filing a claim for compensation after an on-the-job accident. The needs of maritime workers are covered under the Jones Act, which requires companies owning and operating vessels to provide safe working conditions for their employees.

When your company violates these regulations, you can file a Jones Act claim to seek financial compensation for your offshore injuries. However, many workers fear backlash and face the question of whether or not they can lose their job for making a Jones Act claim. Let’s examine this topic more closely.

What Is the Jones Act?

The Jones Act is a federal maritime law that provides certain rights to seamen injured while working aboard a vessel in navigation. Also known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, this law specifically gives injured seamen the right to sue their employers for compensation when they are hurt while working offshore or at sea.

Employees can file a claim to receive financial relief for past and future medical expenses, physical pain, disfigurement, mental anguish, physical impairment, and loss of earning capacity, among other damages. The Jones Act may also provide injured seaman the right to maintenance and cure benefits, which include daily living expenses and medical costs.

Employee Protections Under the Jones Act

Under the Jones Act, employers and / or vessel owners are required to provide crew members with a reasonably safe work environment. To receive compensation for a claim under the Jones Act, you must prove that your injuries were caused, at least in part, by your employer’s negligence.

Injuries to seamen commonly result from:

  • Unseaworthy vessels
  • Lack of adequate personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Failure to properly maintain or secure equipment
  • Failure to provide crew members with the proper safety gear
  • Inadequately or improperly trained crew members
  • Insufficient crew members assigned to work with a piece of equipment
  • Faulty equipment

To file a Jones Act claim, you and your maritime attorney must provide evidence showing that the employer or owner was negligent and / or that the vessel was unseaworthy. Negligence occurs when an employer has a duty of care to their workers and fails in that duty. Your case must show that you suffered damages in the form of physical injury as a direct result of this negligence and that you have incurred relevant expenses.

Proving unseaworthiness requires similarly robust evidence in the form of logs kept by the captain, maintenance workers, dock workers, seamen, and expert testimony. Photos, videos, and other materials can substantiate your offshore injury claim and convince a judge and / or jury to side with you.

Who Is Covered by the Jones Act?

Anyone who is a seaman whose job contributes to the operation or function of a vessel or fleet is protected under the Jones Act. Land-based workers are typically not covered by the Act, but may have their own legal options depending upon the specifics of their situation. An experienced maritime injury lawyer can assess your circumstances and give you more guidance.

At The Krist Law Firm, P.C., our team of Houston injury lawyers have over four decades of experience successfully handling offshore injury cases under the Jones Act and achieving award-winning results for our clients. If you or your loved one has been seriously injured in an offshore accident, contact our offshore injury attorneys today for a free consultation.

Maritime Workers’ Rights Against Retaliatory Discharge

Most employers will not want to admit they have engaged in negligent behaviors that caused a worker’s injury or death. However, when offshore workers are injured at sea due to an employer or vessel owner’s careless actions or rule violations, the last thing they should have to worry about is getting fired.

The unfortunate reality is that some employers may threaten a seaman’s job to keep them from filing a Jones Act claim. It is important to understand your legal rights if you are considering making an offshore injury claim but are hesitant because you are concerned that you may lose your job.

Texas, for example, like many other states, is an “at-will” employment state. In general, this means that employees without a contract can be terminated for any legal reason or no reason at all. However, state and federal laws prohibit an employer from retaliating against an employee for exercising a protected legal right, which includes filing a claim under Jones Act for work-related injuries.

Government Agencies Can Protect You

Firing an employee for filing a Jones Act claim falls under the governance of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). You can contact the EEOC for assistance in reporting your employer for violating your rights, but you should speak to a maritime lawyer first if you have not already.

Potential Compensation Available if You Are Retaliated Against

Much like any personal injury or work-related accident claim, you have the right to seek damages if you experience retaliatory discharge after filing a complaint under the Jones Act.

The retaliatory discharge damages you may qualify for include:

  • Hardship damages you experienced due to unfair treatment by your employer
  • Interest on the wages you would have earned if you had not been illegally terminated
  • Reinstatement to your former position with appropriate pay and privileges
  • Attorneys’ fees you incurred to fight your discharge, including costs of expert witnesses, investigation, and litigation

Each case is unique, and your lawyer can give you an estimate of the value of your claim after an initial consultation.

How Our Houston Offshore Injury Lawyers Can Help Protect Your Rights in a Jones Act Claim

If you have been fired for filing a Jones Act claim, you may be able to recover compensation through a retaliatory discharge or wrongful termination lawsuit against your employer. In order to ensure that your legal rights are protected, it is important that you speak with a knowledgeable Jones Act lawyer as soon as possible.

If you were injured while working at sea or believe you experienced illegal retaliation for filing a Jones Act claim, the skilled team of offshore injury lawyers at The Krist Law Firm, P.C. can help. We have a deep understanding of both federal and state maritime law, and we are committed to protecting the rights of injured offshore workers.

We have a successful track record of representing injured maritime workers, including achieving the largest published recovery for a single maritime plaintiff in Texas history. We have the resources, knowledge, and skills needed to fight for the maximum compensation available in your case, and we will make sure that your interests are fairly represented throughout the legal process. Contact our offshore accident attorneys near Houston today for a free consultation.