Louisiana Ship Captain Wrongfully Terminated for Contacting Coast Guard

A New Orleans barge captain was wrongfully terminated for alerting the US Coast Guard about potential engine problems on his boat, according to Business Week. The shipping company, St. James Stevedoring Partners LLC, agreed to pay the former captain $245,000 to settle the whistleblower case.

After the incident, the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) investigated, treated the captain as a whistleblower. According to OSHA, the captain alerted the Coast Guard first in June 2011 when he noticed a faulty engine. St. James Stevedoring subsequently suspended the captain and told him not to alert the Coast Guard without approval from the company. The same captain reported the same problem to the Coast Guard two months later in August and was terminated.

OSHA has not disclosed the captain’s name, which is its policy when a subject is treated as a whistleblower. OSHA determined that St. James Stevedoring was in violation of the Seamen’s Protection Act, which protects seamen from retaliation when they report to the Coast Guard.

It is reprehensible that this company fired a responsible captain for alerting the Coast Guard about the engine problems. This is a textbook example of a wrongful termination under whistleblower protection laws.

Kesluk, Silverstein & Jacob—Los Angeles employment attorneys