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A lawyer who represents cruise-ship workers reveals why it's nearly impossible for them to sue their employers when they feel like they've been mistreated

A lawyer who represents cruise-ship workers reveals why it's nearly impossible for them to sue their employers when they feel like they've been mistreated
Darryl Brooks/Shutterstock



It's very difficult for cruise-ship workers to sue their employers if they feel they've been mistreated.




When cruise-ship workers sign their employment contracts, they agree that if they have a conflict with the cruise line, they will settle it through arbitration rather than in court.




Settling a grievance through arbitration, rather than the US legal system, is likely to produce a worse outcome for the employee because the cruise line picks and pays for the arbitrator, the maritime lawyer Jim Walker said.




A representative for the Cruise Lines International Association — a trade association whose members include Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean International, and Norwegian Cruise Line — did not comment specifically on the use of arbitration agreements by member cruise lines.




But the CLIA representative said its members comply with the Maritime Labour Convention, a set of guidelines for the treatment of seafarers created by an agency of the United Nations that covers working hours, health and safety, and living conditions.




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A lawsuit or a report to a regulator are two last-resort options available to many workers who feel like their employers have mistreated them. But doing either can be difficult or ineffective for a cruise-ship worker because cruise lines often require workers to handle disputes through arbitration and incorporate their businesses in countries that have more lenient labor laws than the US, Jim Walker, a maritime lawyer for Walker and O'Neill, told Business Insider.
This means cruise lines are able to treat their workers in ways that might make land-based businesses in the US fearful of legal action or regulatory scrutiny.
"The cruise industry does not have to comply with US labor laws," he said.
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