Can You Get Fired for Filing a Jones Act Claim?

Jones Act Mar 17, 2023

If you work offshore and you’ve been injured on the job, you may have a variety of concerns. For example, you may have concerns about your health and your finances—and you may also have concerns about losing your job.

For offshore workers who suffer on-the-job injuries, the Jones Act provides a source of financial recovery. Offshore workers have clear legal rights under the Jones Act. These include the right to “no-fault” benefits and—in some cases—the right to additional fault-based compensation.

But, if you file a Jones Act claim with your employer, do you have to be concerned about getting fired?

Federal Law Prohibits Employers from Retaliating Against Employees Who Assert Their Jones Act Rights

The federal courts have made clear that the answer to this question is “No.” Under federal law, employers cannot lawfully retaliate against employees who assert their rights under the Jones Act. The principle behind this prohibition is simple: If employees could get fired for seeking financial compensation, then employers would use the threat of termination as a way to avoid facing Jones Act claims.

In fact, not only does federal law prohibit employers from firing employees based on their decision to seek financial compensation under the Jones Act, but it prohibits other forms of retaliation as well. This includes retaliatory actions such as:

  • Threatening to fire a seaman who tries to report an on-the-job injury
  • Blacklisting seamen or refusing to renew their contracts
  • Refusing to allow injured seamen to return to work after they recover
  • Reassigning seamen to less-favorable jobs after they file claims under the Jones Act
  • Demoting, discriminating against or otherwise taking adverse employment action against an injured seaman

If you are concerned about getting fired if you file a Jones Act claim, you should talk to a lawyer before you make any decisions. A lawyer who has experience representing injured seamen will be able to explain everything you need to know, and when you hire a lawyer to represent you, your lawyer can deal with your employer on your behalf. Most employers know that retaliation is illegal, and if they know they will be held accountable, they are much less likely to violate the law.

But, You Can Still Lose Your Job After Filing a Jones Act Claim

While retaliation is prohibited, employers can still fire seamen who file Jones Act claims in some circumstances. Although federal law protects you against retaliation, it does not guarantee that you will have a job once you’ve recovered. For example, if your employer conducts a round of layoffs while your Jones Act claim is pending, your job could still get cut.

With that said, if you get laid off shortly after filing a Jones Act claim, your employer may have a difficult time proving that your termination is unrelated to your claim. In this scenario, your employer must be able to demonstrate a non-retaliatory basis for your termination. If it can’t, you may be entitled to financial compensation above and beyond the compensation you are entitled to receive under the Jones Act.

What If Your Employer Fires You Anyway?

While your employer cannot legally retaliate against you, there is nothing that can prevent your employer from violating the law if it so chooses. So, what if your employer fires you anyway?

If your employer illegally retaliates against you after you file a Jones Act claim, you have clear legal rights in this scenario as well. Most importantly, even if you are no longer employed, you are still entitled to just compensation under the Jones Act. This means that you are entitled to maintenance and cure benefits, and if your injury was the result of an unseaworthy condition or Jones Act negligence, you are entitled to full compensation for your medical expenses, lost earnings, pain and suffering, and other losses.

As we mentioned above, if you are a victim of employment retaliation, you may be entitled to additional compensation as well. When employers violate their employees’ rights, they can—and should—be held accountable. In most cases, this means that offshore employers must compensate injured seamen for their additional losses—including lost wages, lost benefits, interest, and legal costs and fees.

But, just like filing a claim under the Jones Act, when filing a claim for retaliation, it is up to you to prove your legal rights. This raises an important question: How can you prove that your termination was retaliatory? Some examples of the types of questions your lawyer will need to answer in order to prove your legal rights include:

  • Were you provided with an explanation of your termination?
  • If you were provided with an explanation, is the explanation valid—or is it just a pretext for retaliation?
  • If you were provided with an explanation, were other employees terminated for similar reasons or under similar circumstances?
  • How long after filing your Jones Act claim did you get fired? Did any other employees get fired at the same time?
  • Have other employees been fired after filing Jones Act claims in the past?

Again, these are just examples. Several additional factors can point toward a retaliatory termination as well, and, in many cases, proving retaliation will involve painting a picture of the totality of the circumstances surrounding a seaman’s termination. This is one reason (among many) why it is important to have an experienced lawyer on your side. Whether you have concerns about filing a Jones Act claim or you have already been fired, you owe it to yourself to speak with a lawyer as soon as possible.

Contact Us for a Free and Confidential Consultation

Do you have questions about your rights under the Jones Act? Are you concerned about getting fired if you file a claim? Have you already been fired? If your answer to any of these questions is “Yes,” we can help. To get started with a free and confidential consultation, call 800-468-4878 or tell us how we can help online now.

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