All maritime workers are not covered by the Jones Act, 46 U.S.C. § 30104. This is a federal law that regulates United States domestic shipping commerce, as well as the legal rights of maritime workers.
While all maritime workers do have legal rights, not all may access workers’ compensation benefits or other security (such as protection from employer negligence) provided by the Jones Act.
To qualify to file a Jones Act claim, maritime workers must be considered a seaman as defined by provisions within the Act.
It is also important to understand that those who cannot file a Jones Act claim may have other legal options.
Definition of a Seaman
According to the Jones Act, a ‘seaman’ is any crew member on a vessel who contributes to the function of the ship, is connected to the ship while in operation, and spends at least 30% of their time working on the vessel.
Employee’s Work Contributes to the Vessel
Although contract workers and part-time maritime workers contribute to work on the vessel, this factor alone is not enough to define such workers as a seaman, meaning they would not qualify to file a Jones Act claim.
That is, some maritime workers may contribute to work on several separate vessels. Unfortunately, the combined work may not make them eligible to file a Jones Act claim with a seaman status against a single employer.
Seaman Spends a Minimum Amount of Time Working on the Vessel
To be considered a seaman, maritime workers must spend a significant amount of time working on the vessel. However, this amount can be subjective.
In other words, there are certain circumstances that could allow a maritime worker to meet this requirement even if they do not spend the required 30% of their time aboard a single vessel.
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Maritime Workers Who Are Not Covered by the Jones Act
Maritime workers who are not covered by the Jones Act include longshore workers, harbor workers, and contractors.
Instead of filing a Jones Act claim, these workers may need to partake in filing a claim with the Division of Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation (DLHWC).
This department was developed to bring rights to workers who do not qualify as a seaman under the Jones Act through the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA).
The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act
According to the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Workers’ Compensation, the LHWCA provides compensation for longshore and harbor workers who are injured on the job and do not qualify for a Jones Act claim.
This compensation can include payments for medical expenses, rehabilitation, and other services needed due to a maritime injury.
The LHWCA covers many maritime workers, as well as those who are not maritime workers but who perform work while on water, such as repair workers performing service to a vessel.
To be covered by the LHWCA, injuries must have occurred on what is termed ‘navigable waters’ of the United States.
Difference Between the LHWCA and the Jones Act
The main difference between the LHWCA and the Jones Act is that the Jones Act only applies to crew members who meet the definition of ‘seaman,’ while the LHWCA applies to anyone who has worked on a vessel—even if they are not a maritime worker—except seamen.
Some other individuals are not covered by either the Jones Act or the LHWCA, such as federal government employees aboard the vessel or people who are hired solely for clerical work.
In general, anyone who qualifies for a claim with the Office of Workers Compensation may not qualify for either a Jones Act claim or LHWCA, but this is likely because they are not maritime workers.
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Legal Options for Maritime Workers
Maritime workers are not regulated by general federal laws. Instead, separate laws have been established to help protect the rights of all maritime workers, including both contractors and part-time workers, as well as full-time crew members.
These laws help ensure that all maritime workers can get the help they need in the case of a workplace injury, employer negligence, or another incident that can lead to time off work, medical costs, and other damages.
If you are a maritime employee, your job is quite different from a job on land—from the hours you work to what is required from you while on board the vessel. However, you still have options for recourse if you become injured while on the job or experience unfair treatment from your employer.
The laws for maritime workers can be complex, and you may be unsure whether you are covered by the Jones Act or the LHWCA. Working with a lawyer from our firm to file your claim can help ensure you do so correctly.