Our clients often ask us if their employer (whether it is a cruise line or shipping firm) can fire them for simply filing a maritime personal injury lawsuit. Our answer is that they can, but they will open themselves up to a claim for retaliatory discharge.
Maritime law provides a seaman crew member a claim for “retaliatory discharge” where his “employer’s decision to discharge him was motivated, in substantial part, by the knowledge that the seaman intends to, or has, filed a personal injury action against the employer.” Baiton v. Carnival Cruise Lines
Should the maritime employer fire a seaman crew member in retaliation to filing or the possibility of filing a personal injury lawsuit, the law entitles the seaman crewmember compensatory damages. Compensatory damages include the seaman crew member’s expenses of finding new employment, lost earnings while he/she seeks another position, and lost future earnings if the seaman crew member’s new job pays less than that earned while the he/she was employed by the company that wrongly fired him/her. In addition to these compensatory economic losses, the discharged seaman crew member may be entitled to recover compensatory damages for mental anguish that he/she may suffer as a result of the wrongful discharge.
Even though an employer may fire you because you are about to file or have filed a personal injury lawsuit, the law gives you the right to recover against your employer. If you are injured or think your employer fired you because it thought you will file a lawsuit and would like to ask us questions, feel free our board certified maritime lawyers.