Cruise lines such as Carnival, NCL, Princess and others have begun inserting foreign choice of law provisions into their seaman crew member employment contracts. This means if a crew member is hurt and wants to bring a claim against the cruise line, foreign law, not U.S. law, is to be applied. The purpose of these provisions is to deprive crew members of the vast rights and benefits afforded under U.S. law and substitute the lesser rights and benefits afforded under foreign law. In short, cruise lines don’t want to pay their seamen employees the benefits due under U.S. law even though these same cruise lines operate from U.S. ports and have their corporate offices in the U.S.
Many crew members have no idea what they are potentially giving up when they sign an employment contract with a foreign choice of law provision. For example, the Carnival and Princess contracts call for the application of Panamanian law. Unlike U.S. law, Panamanian law does not provide for:
- Double Penalty Wages for each day the cruise line failed to pay earned wages after discharge;