Merchant Marine Sues For Sexual Harassment/Assault Under Jones Act
Two lawsuits have been filed against Maersk Line, Limited amid claims of sexual harassment and at least one allegation that a midshipman was raped while on the job. The plaintiff anonymously shared a story of being raped by a superior in 2019 during training. She was serving as an engine cadet aboard the vessel when the assault occurred. Now, a second victim has stepped forward. She worked aboard the same vessel as the first victim.
Maersk is being accused of failing to protect cadets, failing to supervise employees, and creating a hostile work environment. All complaints have been filed under The Jones Act. In this article, we’ll discuss the allegations, the employer’s duty of care, and how Jones Act sexual harassment lawsuits proceed.
The second lawsuit alleges that another female midshipman was so severely sexually harassed that she slept clutching a knife for protection. She alleges that she suffered extreme sexual harassment, unwanted touching, and gender discrimination. The harassment was related to a single crewmember who other crewmembers described as violent.
Both cadets were referred to the ship as part of their training from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA). The second victim states that she is unsure if she will ever be able to complete her training due to trauma suffered aboard the vessel.
In 2016, the USMMA suspended training operations amid rampant claims of sexual discrimination and harassment. Maersk Line was required to instate a sexual harassment policy and enforce it properly. The policy was labeled a “zero tolerance” policy but was obviously ignored. Rampant complaints to both Maersk and the USMMA were routinely ignored culminating in avoidable sexual violence against at least one cadet. Among the complaints filed by cadets, the cadet who reported the rape alleges that she was tasked with performing sexual harassment training on behalf of several employees. The program was suspended again in 2021, but reinstated a few months later.
Because the plaintiff’s injuries are directly related to the defendant’s negligence, the lawsuits have been filed under The Jones Act.
Jones Act and sexual harassment
The Jones Act is regularly geared toward personal injury lawsuits. However, assault by an employee of a vessel qualifies. In most cases, these lawsuits contain allegations of sexual violence. Sexual harassment lawsuits are generally not filed under The Jones Act unless there is an accompanying physical injury. Unwanted touching may qualify. So, generally speak, rape, attempted rape, sexual battery, and other physical acts must be present to trigger a Jones Act lawsuit.
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