Did you know that cruise ship crew members can make as little as $156 dollars a week, even while working 12 hour days, seven days a week? Unfortunately, cruise lines get away with paying their crew members wages that would be illegal under U.S. employment law by incorporating in foreign countries like the Bahamas, Panama, and Liberia. Since many cruise companies fail to abide by U.S. labor laws, these laws can provide little protection to crew members with regards to their wages if they are involved in an injury while in the service of their vessel.
Fortunately, some laws still protect U.S. seafarers. One of these laws is the Jones Act. The Jones Act affords U.S. seamen recourse to sue their employers for negligence if they are injured while on board a cruise ship. Making a Jones Act claim and going up against a multibillion-dollar cruise line is not an easy task, so injured crew members should consult with a Jones Act lawyer in order to ensure that the claim is processed properly.
Under the Jones Act, if a crew member is injured while on the job, the injured seafarer should report and document his or her injury as quickly as possible. Cruise line operators are required to provide injured crew members with proper medical attention and must ensure that victim can be moved to a location where he or she can receive proper medical treatment for their condition within a reasonable time. Unfortunately, in many cases, cruise operators delay providing proper medical attention, keeping crew members on board the ship until it reaches its next port of call or even until a replacement crewmember is brought aboard and the injured crewmember can be signed off in a non-U.S. port of call and then sent back to his /her home country. This often leads to further medical complications for the crew member, which they can also note in their claim.
The Jones Act provides seafarers with similar protections to that of Workers’ Compensation laws. Seafarers are entitled to receive compensation for medical bills, rehabilitative care, and lost wages for their injuries. But because the hourly and weekly wage of many cruise ship crew members is minimal, the tips provided by the passengers often comprise the greater portion of a cruise ship worker’s income.
The question then stands: Is a cruise ship crew member entitled to seek reimbursement for lost tips under the Jones Act?
The answer will vary based on the particular situation at hand, but an experienced Jones Act lawyer will review the facts of the case as well as the crewmembers contract and make a determination as to whether the crewmember is entitled to his tips as part of his maintenance sick wages or not.
Many cruise crew members receive tips as part of their regular salaries. Busboys, cabin stewards, waiters, bartenders, and casino workers may all be entitled to seek reimbursement for lost wages and tips. Cruise lines sometimes fight hard in court to deny victims lost tips because this money isn’t often counted as part of a crew member’s regular salary. In a prior blog, our Jones Act lawyer explained that cruise lines hire experienced attorneys in order to protect their interests. Because these kinds of claims are quite complicated, it is important that injured crew members seek the help of equally experienced Jones Act lawyer so their rightful benefits will not be forsaken or denied.