Crewmember Ruling Handed Down

Monday, March 29, 2004
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled that a crewmember who, at the direction of his supervisor, violates a Coast Guard regulation and later quits his employment has no cause of action against his employer for wrongful discharge. In the instant case, plaintiff was employed on defendant’s casino vessel as a licensed assistant engineer. He asserted that when there were not enough engine utilitymen working to comply with the vessel’s Coast Guard certificate of inspection, his supervisors ordered him to enter the name of an employee even though that employee was not actually present. After almost two years of making such false record entries and allegedly experiencing a hostile work environment, plaintiff quit his employment. He later filed this action against his employer. The court found that there is no private right of action under general maritime law for retaliatory discharge in this situation. Further, the court noted that plaintiff made the false log book entries for an extended period before voluntarily leaving his employment. In those circumstances, the appellate court affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of defendant employer. Zbylut v. Harvey’s Iowa Management Co., Inc., No. 03-1752 (8th Cir., March 25, 2004). (HK Law)

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