Whistleblower Law Blog

St. James Stevedoring Partners LLC Agrees to Pay River Barge Captain $245,000 to Settle Retaliation Lawsuit After Terminating Him for Reporting Engine Problems to the Coast Guard

On April 23, 2012, the U.S. Department of Labor announced that St. James Stevedoring Partners LLC, a New Orleans-based riverboat company, has agreed to pay $245,000 to settle allegations that it violated the Seaman’s Protection Act when it terminated an employee for raising safety concerns.  The whistleblower provisions of the Seaman’s Protection Act protect employees who report violations of various consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food, health reform and maritime laws.

An investigator from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) determined that St. James Stevedoring terminated a riverboat barge captain after he notified the U.S. Coast Guard that the starboard vessel engine was inoperable.  After the incident, the company suspended the captain and told him that he was not permitted to report safety concerns to the Coast Guard, despite the fact that riverboat captains are required by law to report safety hazards to the Coast Guard.  The captain was put on probation,When he discovered another engine safety violation and reported it to the Coast Guard,  the company terminated the captain and claimed that it was because of his poor performance.

The terms of the settlement require St. James Stevedoring Partners to pay the captain a total of $245,000, which includes $23,451 in back pay, $70,352 in front pay, $133,106 in compensatory damages and $18,091 in attorney’s fees. In addition, the company will inform all employees of their right to raise maritime safety concerns without fear of being terminated.  The settlement is the most significant financial settlement under the Seaman’s Protection Act since OSHA assumed jurisdiction over the whistleblower provisions of the law in 2010.

“Employees must feel free to exercise their rights under the law without fear of termination or retaliation by their employers,” said John M. Hermanson, OSHA’s regional administrator in Dallas. “The Labor Department is committed to vigorously protecting the rights of all workers.”

The Employment Law Group® law firm has an extensive nationwide whistleblower practice  representing employees who have been victims of retaliation.

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