An Experienced Merchant Seaman Penalty Wage Statutes Lawyer Can Help You Obtain The Compensation You Deserve

In addition to sick wages, U.S. crew members and merchant seaman working aboard certain vessels are entitled to an enhancement of double wages if they have not been paid within a specific time after their contract terminates or after being discharged from a vessel. In addition, a foreign (Non-U.S.) crew member and seafarer is also entitled to double wages for payment delay when discharged in a U.S. port. A merchant seaman penalty wage statutes lawyer at Brais Law Firm has the experience to protect your rights, the compassion to serve your needs, and the skill to obtain the compensation you deserve.

When Does a Seaman’s Entitlement to Wages & Provisions Begin?

Under 46 U.S. Code Sec. 10313, a seaman’s entitlement to wages and provisions begins when the seaman starts their work. Alternatively, the entitlement to wages and provisions may also start as specified in their agreement that is required under Sec. 10302. In such an agreement, the time that the seaman will begin work (or must be present onboard) will be determined, and the entitlement to wages and provisions begins on whichever date is earlier. There may be instances where your employer requires that you be present onboard, but they will only compensate you for your time once you start working. Generally, this is an unacceptable form of wage theft that could entitle you to compensation. One of the most effective ways to determine what you might be entitled to through a wage claim or lawsuit is to speak with an experienced merchant seaman penalty wage statutes lawyer.

Loss or Wreck of Vessel Ends Service, But Not the Obligation to Pay for Work Completed

When it comes to the work of seamen, the potential of work instability due to fluctuations in demand and the possibility of losing a job due to the loss or wreck of a vessel is ever-present. If a vessel’s loss or wreck leads to the end of the service of a seaman before the agreed-upon end, you are entitled to wages for the time you actually served. Note that this particular subsection of the statute, 46 U.S. Code Sec. 10313(b), applies to fishing or whaling vessels but not to yachts.

Often companies that have experienced the loss of a vessel will look to decrease costs by offering reduced wage compensation or by avoiding payments altogether for work completed. This is not legal, and if you have lost a position due to the loss or wreck of a vessel, you are still owed compensation for the work that you have completed. If a voyage is improperly ended early, it could equate to an improper discharge, which could entitle you to a month’s wages in addition to monies owed for work that has already been completed.

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Improper Discharge Entitles a Seaman to Compensation

In the world of merchant seaman work, accepting one job often means turning down another opportunity, one that may no longer be available if the position you have accepted comes to an improper end. In situations where a seaman has signed an agreement and is improperly discharged either before the beginning of the voyage, or before one month’s wages are earned, they are entitled to compensation. 

The compensation for improper discharge, which is discharge without the seaman’s fault justifying discharge, the seaman is entitled to: 

  • Wages earned 
  • One month’s wages as additional compensation 

The master or owner is liable for this compensation, which accounts for the lost opportunity of improper discharge, and the time it can take to align the next position. When the owner or master refuses to pay, it can be a difficult process to claim what you are owed, and a merchant seaman penalty wage statutes lawyer from Brais Law can help. 

Exceptions to a Seaman’s Entitlement to Wages

While the work of a merchant marine or seaman is generally protected by statute, there are situations in which there is not entitlement to wages, including when: 

  • The seaman unlawfully failed to work when they were required to, after the time that was agreed upon for the seaman to begin work 
  • When the seaman was lawfully imprisoned for an offense, unless a court hearing the case directs otherwise

These exceptions may limit a seaman’s ability to collect certain wages, and the facts of your unique situation will determine what compensation is available to you. 

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Seamen May Demand Wages Throughout the Voyage

Once a voyage has begun, a seaman is entitled to receive from the master, upon demand, one-half of the balance of wages that have been earned and unpaid at each port at which the vessel loads or delivers cargo during the voyage. The wage demand:

  • Cannot be made prior to the expiration of 5 days from the beginning of the voyage
  • Not more than once in 5 days
  • Not more than once in the same port on the same entry 

Should the master not comply with this demand for wages, you may be released from the agreement, and will be entitled to payment for all wages earned. When you work with a merchant seaman penalty wage statutes lawyer, you have an ongoing advocate by your side to help ensure that you are paid in a timely manner. You can have your attorney from Brais Law proactively request your wage entitlements throughout your voyage on your behalf, keeping your income flowing without having to deal with the related paperwork and hassle. 

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Wages are Due within 24 Hours After Cargo is Discharged

When the voyage has ended, the master is required under 46 U.S. Code Sec. 10313(f) to pay each seaman the full balance of wages due either:

  • Within 24 hours after the cargo is discharged, or 
  • Within 4 days after the seaman is discharged 
  • Whichever of these two time frames is earlier 

Double-Wage Enhancement Eligibility

Through 46 U.S. Code Sec. 10313(g)(1), when payment is not timely made either within 24 hours of the discharge or cargo or within 4 days, “the master ror owner shall pay to the seaman 2 days’ wages for each da payment is delayed”. This means that if you are paid 30 days late, you are entitled to your wages owed, in addition to 60 days in payment as a penalty. Collecting this compensation is supported through the help of a merchant seaman penalty wage statutes lawyer from Brais Law. We will determine what statute or statutes apply to your unique situation, and the amount that you are owed, and handle your claim every step of the way to ensure you are paid what you are owed and any additional damages that could be available.

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Contact a Merchant Seaman Penalty Wage Statutes Lawyer Now

Having represented cruise ship companies, yacht owners, tug, barge, and ferry operators for 19 years, our merchant seaman penalty wage statutes lawyer at Brais Law Firm is in a unique position to protect crew members whose employers refuse to pay earned wages at the end of a voyage or contract.To reach our lawyers, you may click email the firm, call 800-499-0551 from within the U.S., Skype BraisLaw worldwide, or click Contact Us to select and complete a form for a free evaluation of your case.

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