Working on a vessel at sea is challenging enough without worrying about the behavior of your fellow employees. Unfortunately, countless Jones Act workers are sexually assaulted or harassed by their coworkers or supervisors—and they may not be aware that an employer can be held legally liable for the incident.

Liability for Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Under the Jones Act

WHO? Letter BlocksThe Jones Act stipulates that maritime employers have a duty to make their ships reasonably safe for crew members. This applies to the vessel itself, but also the working conditions on the ship. Shipping companies, cruise lines, and all other maritime employers must ensure that any individuals they employ are not violent or dangerous.

Under the Jones Act, an employer or shipowner could be held legally liable for sexual assault or harassment if:

  • They did not perform adequate background checks. Employers are required to screen new hires or transferred employees to determine if they have a history of harassment, stalking, or violent behavior.
  • They allowed a dangerous crew member to continue working. Employers may be liable if they received reports of harassing behavior from a crew member but did not remove the worker or take disciplinary action.
  • They failed to institute proper employee harassment policies. There should be a zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment or assault aboard ships. All employees should be trained on these policies and employers should take all claims seriously. Our firm has successfully handled sexual harassment claims for seafarers. No one trying to make a living should be subject to sexual harassment which can cause compensable physical and emotional injury, leading to losses of earnings, benefits and self-esteem.

If you are a crew member who has been sexually assaulted by a supervisor or coworker on a vessel, you could file a Jones Act claim to recover damages. If you have suffered harassment, you could also be able to file a workplace harassment claim against your employer. The experienced maritime injury attorneys at Hofmann & Schweitzer can examine your case and discuss the legal remedies that may be available to you.

Call 1-800-3-MAY-DAY or fill out our online contact form today to set up a no-obligation consultation with an attorney. To learn more, download your complimentary copy of our guide, Are You a Seaman Injured in a Maritime Accident? Know Your Rights.


Paul T. Hofmann
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Focused on personal injury, with an emphasis on maritime, railroad and construction worker tort claims.