August 2015

HAVE YOU EXHAUSTED YOUR UNION REMEDY?

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Many seamen are wrongfully terminated by shipowners. This can arise from the misconduct of the seaman, improper conduct by the shipowner, or a combination of factors. Where there exists a collective bargaining agreement between the shipowner and the union, the seaman is bound to follow the grievance procedure outlined in any such agreement. That procedure must first be "exhausted" before any separate legal action can be initiated on behalf of the seaman. The seaman cannot simply file a lawsuit against the shipowner for their improper conduct without first following the detailed contractual requirements.

QUESTION FROM THE BRIDGE

I'm a chief cook and on my last trip the Captain harassed me regarding the food and menu. I was terminated by him before the end of my service time and now will lose months of wages. I don't think this is fair. Can I sue the company for this?
Larry A., Jacksonville, FL

Answer:
The first thing you must do is contact your union representative and find out what your collective bargaining agreement says. Usually you will have to first file a formal grievance with your union and exhaust the steps set forth in the agreement. If you follow that procedure and still are not satisfied with the outcome, you should consult a lawyer familiar with maritime law to see if you can file suit. However, if you don't follow the procedure in the collective bargaining agreement first, the shipowner will have a defense to your claim.

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