Fishermen: Not Getting Paid Wages from Fishing Trips?

Whether it is a result of the Covid-19 pandemic or not, boat owners appear to have fallen on hard times and crew members are suffering. Recently, Latti & Anderson LLP has received an increase in calls from fishermen who have not been paid their wages from completed fishing trips. Vessel owners know that it’s going to take effort and time for you to hire an attorney so they press their luck and withhold wages or not pay the full amount of wages due. Pursuant to the law, you can sue your employer for your agreed share, or sue the boat directly (in rem) under 46 U.S.C. § 10602 and seize the vessel causing a massive headache for your employer. At the end of the day, though, this is a very costly route that can quickly result in you walking away with nothing after all of the expenses and attorney fees are paid.

You Have Options

But there is another option, which may help you land you more than your agreed share of the catch. Congress has passed a law that requires the boat owner and fisherman to sign fishing articles before every trip – 46 U.S.C. § 10601. These articles must contain certain information, including the agreed-upon share of the catch and the duration of the agreement. If the articles don’t contain that information, or if there are no articles, 46 U.S.C. § 11107 allows the fisherman to collect his agreed-upon wages or the highest wages paid to a similar fisherman at the same port. 

What Does That Mean?

You can recover wages equal to the highest wage earned by a fisherman with the same rank (deckhand, mate, cook, etc.) as you on any boat in the same port as your boat. This is your best bet at getting the vessel owner to pay your unpaid wage and for you to walk away with all and more of the wages that you are due.

You Must Act Fast

While this statute is specifically designed to help fishermen recover their unpaid wages, you must act quickly. The statute says that you need to bring your claims against the boat owner within six months from the date the fish were sold. If you miss that date, your paycheck may be the one that got away.

If you have not been paid your wages for a trip, contact the attorneys at Latti & Anderson LLP to see if we can help. To schedule a confidential consultation, call 1-800-392-6072 today.

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