The laws for wage and labor issues will vary depending on the particular maritime industry involved and the location of the work performed. For instance, a fishing vessel that works on the Bering Sea will be subject to one set of laws, while a fish processing vessel anchored within three miles of shore may be subject to another set of laws. A tug crewman who runs cargo up and down the coast may be governed by an entirely different set of laws, and an oceangoing merchant mariner will likely be subject to yet another set of laws.
The information on this website is meant to be general in nature. At Stacey & Jacobsen, PLLC our maritime lawyers have handled all sorts of wage and labor issues. We would be happy to speak with you about your particular case. Please contact us today at our Seattle or Anchorage office. We offer a free initial consultation to discuss your wage issue.
Because there is no one body of law that covers all maritime industries, vessels, or types of trade, we outline the labor laws of several of the most common industries. Also, laws may vary within the same industry if a union is involved. Please see the sections below for more information:Fishing
Most fishing vessel employers are required to enter into written contracts with each of their employees. These contracts should cover basic employment provisions, including length of employment, duties, and, of course, rate of pay. Often, employers and their employees will decide on wages verbally but never write the rate of pay into a contract. Depending on the size of the vessel, this verbal agreement may not be in compliance with fishermen's employment laws.
If there is no written contract that includes wage terms, then a fisherman may be entitled to the highest rate of wages at the port of engagement, or to the terms of the verbal agreement if they are more favorable.
The highest rate of wages is the highest wage paid to other seamen of comparable rating (for example, other deckhands or other cooks) at the port of engagement. For instance, if a deckhand hired at the Port of Dutch Harbor doesn't enter into a written contract regarding wages, then s/he may be entitled to the highest wages being paid to other deckhands hired at the Port of Dutch Harbor.Oceangoing Seamen
Most seamen engaged in voyages to foreign are required enter into written shipping articles agreements. If employers fail to do so, then seamen may be entitled to the highest rate of wages (see subheading under "Fishing," above). Also, if the employer fails to pay his or her employees promptly after the foreign voyage ends, then employees may be eligible to collect double wages and other penalties.Seamen Working Entirely Within Three-Mile Limit
If a seaman is employed by a company that operates exclusively within a three-mile limit of a state's shore, then state wage and hour laws may apply. This is a rather complicated area where federal and state laws may overlap and conflict. In general, it is important to understand that seamen working within a three mile radius of shore may be protected by several laws, including the possibility of collecting double wages under some circumstances.Coastwise Trade
Seamen employed by vessels that travel port-to-port along the coast also have special laws that pertain to them. For instance, if employers do not enter into written shipping articles agreements with their employees, then seamen engaged in coastwise trade may be entitled to the highest rate of wages within three months of engagement. This is a little different than the highest rate of wages that fishermen are entitled to.
For instance, if a seaman on a coastwise trading vessel is hired in San Francisco in January, and does not enter into a written shipping articles agreement with his or her employer, then s/he may be entitled to any rate of pay given to other coastwise seamen hired in San Francisco any time between October and January. This means that the rate of pay is often higher than the highest rate of pay at the time of engagement. Also, since coastwise trading vessels often stay within a three-mile radius from shore, state wages laws may apply in some cases.Speak To An Attorney
In general, a seamen employee should realize that, in most industries and on most vessels, there are certain laws that protect them and their wages. The lawyers at Stacey & Jacobsen, PLLC are experienced in all types of wage disputes, from the individual fisherman on "shares," to class action lawsuits, to union employees.
If you have a concern about your wages it is important that you talk to us soon, as oftentimes cases must be filed within six months of the wage dispute. We offer a free initial consultation. Call us at 877-DECKLAW (866-974-9633) or contact us online today.