December 15, 2014
A recent decision from the United States Court of Appeals for
the Fifth Circuit ruled on whether Jones Act "seamen" are
entitled to overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
In the matter of Coffin v. Blessey Marine Services, the judge
ruled in favor of the defendant appellants and remanded the
plaintiff appellee's lawsuit back to district court. The court
granted defendant's petition to appeal (28 U.S.C. § 1292(b)).
Read the decision in Coffin v. Blessey Marine.
The appeals court looked at the duties of the crewmembers in
the instant case. They concluded that the duties of loading and
unloading vessels constitute seaman work. The court felt that
this holding was resonant with U.S. Department of Labor
regulations as well as being within the spirit of the law under
the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Seaman status is a fundamental cornerstone of admiralty
jurisdiction. Under Chandris v. Latsis, an employee is
considered a seaman if the worker's duties must contribute to
the function of the vessel or to the accomplishment of its
mission and the worker has a connection to a vessel or an
identifiable group of vessels in navigation which is substantial
in duration and nature.
The court also enumerated the given duties of tankermen, and
analyzed them in terms of Jones Act seaman status. These
duties were considered when the court reviewed whether the
district courts dismissal of defendant's motion for summary
judgment was proper.
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