Merchant Seaman Awarded $25M in Wrongful Termination Lawsuit

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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A merchant seaman was awarded $25 million in a wrongful termination lawsuit – the facts of which are as bizarre as they come. Anyone wrongfully terminated from their job, regardless of the facts and circumstances of their situation, should contact an experienced employment lawyer to determine if they’re entitled to compensation for their injuries.

Sexual Harassment Turns Into Wrongful Firing

John (real name withheld due to sexual assault), a merchant seaman, was a steward aboard the Maersk Rhode Island – a tanker that had a contract with the U.S. Department of Defense. In July of 2008, John and some of his shipmates were on shore leave in South Korea when a series of bizarre events occurred. The group went to a restaurant, but John became disoriented and was separated from the group on the way back to the ship. He claimed that he was attacked, beaten and sexually assaulted by South Korean policemen.

When he finally returned to the ship, he requested medical treatment. However, his captain did not believe his story and refused. Although he later got medical treatment, South Korean doctors would not examine him for sexual assault once they were told that South Korean police may have been involved.

John was terminated, flown back to the United States and now suffers from depression and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He filed a lawsuit alleging wrongful termination because his ship captain did not want to lose the contract with the Department of Defense and that the captain’s conduct violated the following acts and/or maritime concepts:

  • Jones Act – which requires medical treatment regardless of how someone was injured
  • Unseaworthiness – a maritime concept that a ship owner must have a competent captain
  • Maintenance and cure – a maritime concept referring to wages and medical treatment

A jury awarded him $20 million in compensatory damages and another $5 million in punitive damages.

How Can An Employment Law Attorney Help You?

It’s clear that all of the facts and circumstances surrounding this case have not been reported to the public due to the sensitivity of the allegations. However, it is a good example of the lengths that an experienced employment law lawyer can go to in order to help you get the compensation for which you might be entitled – regardless of whether your situation involves sexual harassment, ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) violations or any type of employment discrimination.

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