The Seaman’s Protection Act is a federal statute that protects maritime employees against retaliation in the following enumerated protected activities (not all have been listed):

  • The seaman, in good faith, has reported to the Coast Guard or other Federal agency that the seaman believes their employer violated any maritime safety laws or regulations.
  • The seaman notified or attempted to notify the vessel’s owner of a work-related personal injury or work-related illness.
  • The seaman cooperated with a safety investigation by the Secretary of the National Transportation Safety Board or the United States Coast Guard.

A person for the purposes of liability under the Seaman’s Protection Act may include a human being or an entity. Such a person might be found to have violated the Seaman’s Protection Act if they took an adverse action against the seaman for engaging in a protected activity.

Washington, Alaska, Oregon, and California Seaman’s Protection Act Lawyers

If you are a maritime worker who has faced retaliation by your employer, you may be able to seek justice through the Seaman’s Protection Act. BOATLAW, LLP has over forty years of experience helping injured maritime employees obtain the compensation they deserve. We can help you during this difficult and frustrating time.

To schedule an initial consultation with our maritime lawyers, contact BOATLAW, LLP at 1-800-262-8529 today. We serve clients in Washington, Oregon, Alaska and California.

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Information Center

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Seaman’s Burden of Proof

To be covered, under the Seaman’s Protection Act, the employee is usually required to prove the following things:

  1. The seaman engaged in a Seaman’s Protection Act protected activity.
  2. The defendant knew or suspected that the seaman engaged a Seaman’s Protection Act protected activity.
  3. The seaman suffered adverse action from the employer that would dissuade a reasonable seaman from engaging in protected activity (e.g., disciplinary action, demotion, hazing, blacklisting, etc.).
  4. The protected activity was a contributing factor in the adverse action taken by the employer.

Contributing factor means that it affects the outcome of a decision, whether alone or with other factors. Therefore, the protected activity must be part of the employer’s adverse action decision.

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Procedure for Handling Seaman’s Protection Act Complaint

In February 2013, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration published an interim rule for Seaman’s Protection Act whistleblower complaints. The final rule went into effect in September 2016.

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Filing The Complaint

The seaman typically must file the complaint alleging a violation of the Seaman’s Protection Act no later than 180 days after the alleged retaliation. The complaint is generally required to demonstrate the above burden of proof. If the employer can prove with clear and convincing evidence that it would have taken the same action absent the protected activity, relief may be unavailable.

Upon receiving the complaint, OSHA is usually required to provide written notice of the filing to the person or persons alleged in the complaint to have violated the Act. Additionally, within 60 days of receipt of the complaint, OSHA  is required to investigate  the allegations and decide whether the complaint has merit.


After receiving the notice of complaint, the employer has 30 days to file objections to the findings and request a hearing. If a hearing is not requested within the 30-day window, the preliminary order will become final and is not subject to judicial review.

If a hearing is requested, it must be held within a reasonable timeframe to keep the case moving. Once the hearing is held, a final order should be issued within 120 days after the hearing concludes.

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If OSHA decides it is reasonable to believe the violation occurred, OSHA will usually include the findings with a preliminary order for relief. Relief may include a requirement that the seaman is reinstated to his previous position and rank, compensatory damages, and potentially punitive damages.

Compensatory Damage

Compensatory damages may include lost earnings due to the adverse action, litigation costs, expert witness fees, and reasonable attorney fees.

Punitive Damage

According to the statute, a seaman may receive up to $250,000 in punitive damages.

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Additional Resources

United States Department of Labor Website – This website provides more information concerning the protections the Seaman’s Protection Act provides workers and how the Department of Labor plays a role.

OSHA Fact Sheet – This fact sheet provides more information on filing a whistleblower complaint under the Seaman’s Protection Act.

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Seaman’s Protection Act Attorneys |  Washington, Oregon, Alaska, California

If you suffered an adverse action after engaging in a protected activity while working aboard a vessel, contact Anderson Carey Williams & Neidzwski, LLP.  Our maritime lawyers have the knowledge and experience to help you navigate a claim under the Seaman’s Protection Act. The sooner you contact us, the better.

Call 1 (800) 262-8529 to secure a free consultation with Anderson Carey Williams & Neidzwski, LLP today. Our attorneys serve maritime workers in Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and California.

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