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Issues re maritime employees’ protections during health pandemic

“Another wrinkle.”

That is what the maritime-focused Waterways Journal underscores in its assessment of added protections afforded industry employees by the federal Jones Act.

Here’s an example featuring the sizable health risks currently posed for maritime workers by the COVID-19 pandemic. The journal notes that many maritime employers are now requiring shoreside workers to sign waivers pledging not to sue if they develop a virus-linked on-the-job injury. Those waivers are often predicated on an employer’s adherence to best-practice safety practices (e.g., mandated mask wearing and social distancing).

Notably, a seaman operating pursuant to Jones Act protections would never be subject to such a limitation (you can sue, but only if the employer was at fault).

The journal stresses that the Jones Act provides additional safeguards, that is, “protections and remedies not available to shoreside employees.” One such added layer of comfort for seamen resides in the ability to bring an injury claim regardless of an employer’s negligence or fault.

Another Jones Act distinction is the legislation’s comparatively relaxed tort standard applicable to injured seamen. Whereas a shoreside worker must establish that an employer’s act or omission proximately caused an injury, a seaman must merely demonstrate that the employer’s conduct or failure to act contributed in some manner to an adverse outcome.

The Waterways Journal spotlights a growing employers’ call to action urging the U.S. Congress to temporarily expand management protections against worker injuries during the current pandemic.

The journal notes that, even if such an outcome ensues, maritime workers who can invoke Jones Act safeguards will continue to be comparatively well protected.