Skip to main content

Passive harassment.

Oakland, CA |

I work on a ship at sea, I was accused of being asleep while prefroming my duties. the job was needle gunning the on the bow, this particular activity is makes a lot of noise. when the Boatswain and Ch. Mate called to the Captain's Office they said that they had a witness that I was asleep, I asked the man about the accusation and he said that they asked him was I doing the job and he told me he said yes that I was working. So where dose this sleeping while working come, and are they trying railroad me off the ship, and am I being harrassed quietly and subtle.

+ Read More

Attorney answers 5


It sounds like your employer conducted an insufficient investigation if, in fact, the witness identified by the employer supports your version of events. I would try to rectify the problem by getting a statement from the witness to give to the investigator. If you are being "railroaded", you may have a claim if the motive for the retaliation is based at least in part on some protected characteristic (e.g., race, color, creed, etc.) or some protected activity (e.g., whistleblowing, complaining about discrimination/harassment/retaliation, taking approved medical leave, etc.)


The conduct you report is not unlawful unless the motivation for the accusation is based on your membership in a protected class of people, or because you engaged in legally-protected conduct. Your facts do not disclose any such motivation.

Employers are allowed to be unreasonable, irrational and rude. They can have employees who treat other employees without respect, or who make it difficult on others based on favoritism, nepotism or down-right bad attitudes, as long as the motivation is not unlawful.

That said many corporations have internal rules that are more protective than the law where the goal is fostering a healthy and productive work environment. If you work for such a company, it makes great sense to report this directly to the Human Resources department.

Good luck to you.

This answer should not be construed to create any attorney-client relationship. Such a relationship can be formed only through the mutual execution of an attorney-client agreement. The answer given is based on the extremely limited facts provided and the proper course of action might change significantly with the introduction of other facts. All who read this answer should not rely on the answer to govern their conduct. Please seek the advice of competent counsel after disclosing all facts to that attorney. This answer is intended for California residents only. The answering party is only licensed to practice in the State of California.


Responders here are assuming that US or California law applies to these facts. That may not be the case. If I recall correctly, what matters is what flag your ship is commissioned under, the jurisdictional rules and regs of your ship company, and where the ship was when the alleged misconduct occurred. If you are represented by a union or association of employees, you will instead have the rights that your union has bargained for.

I am flagging your post to receive the attention of maritime and admiralty law attorneys.

No legal advice here. READ THIS BEFORE you contact me! My responses to questions on Avvo are never intended as legal advice and must not be relied upon as if they were legal advice. I give legal advice ONLY in the course of a formal attorney-client relationship. Exchange of information through Avvo's Questions forum does not establish an attorney-client relationship with me. That relationship is established only by joint execution of a written agreement for legal services. My law firm does not provide free consultations. Please do not call or write to me with a “few questions” that require me to analyze the specific facts of your history and your license application and prescribe for you how to get a State license. Send me an email to schedule a paid Consultation for that kind of information, direction, and assistance. My law firm presently accepts cases involving State and federal licenses and permits; discipline against State and federal licenses; and disciplinary and academic challenges to universities, colleges, boarding schools, and private schools. We take cases of wrongful termination or employment discrimination only if the claims involve peace officers, universities or colleges.

Neil Pedersen

Neil Pedersen


Outstanding thought Christine. You are always thinking outside of the normal box!


You certainly have an employment law issue. Based on the fact that you were out to sea, to cover all bases you need to consult with a maritime law lawyer. There are many different peculiar rules that regulate many activities on ships.

If you have found this information helpful, please let the attorney know by marking best answer. Thank you. This participating Attorney does not warrant any information provided, nor are we creating an Attorney-Client relationship by providing said information to you on this site. Nothing contained herein is intended to constitute, offer, induce, promise, or contract of any kind. The content provided is presented as a courtesy to be used only for informational purposes and is not represented to be error free. The Law Offices of John N. Kitta makes no representations or warranties of any kind with respect to its answer to inquiries, and such representations and warranties are being expressly disclaimed. Given limited facts, we are attempting to share relevant information concerning this area of the law as a public service.


I concur with Ms. McCall in that there is not sufficient information to give you a meaningful response. There are really two questions involved. First relates to your chain of command. If the bosun and mate are making unfair allegations your only real remedy is to go to the master if you want to stay on that ship (or likely with that company). You had better have all your ducks in a row and facts ready to present if you jump the chain of command and take something direct to the master of the vessel, so put some serious thought into it before you just plunge ahead.

With respect to your legal rights: The first consideration is the flag and home port of the vessel you serve on. That will provide the governing law on how far the employer can push you. Note that the employer will be allowed to push you, the question really boils down to how far they can push you.

Second, you will receive the benefits of any union or merchant marine association recognized by that jurisdiction. The union representative or cob will be the person to talk to about what protections are afforded by the association, contract, union or the like.

That is pretty much all the advice I can give without a whole lot more information about the unique facts of your case. If you are serving on a US flagged vessel operated by the merchant marine, your union contract will have specific and detailed protections for all sorts of conditions well past the protections of the law.

Under U.S. law -- which may not apply at all to your situation -- the primary remedy for constructive termination is pay earned to date and one month's pay as damages. See 46 USC § 10313(c).

I would strongly suggest that you seek the advice of an attorney the next time you have any substantial liberty time away from the ship. It sounds from your question that you are a native English speaker, if the master is not a native English speaker, try to find an attorney who is fluent in both languages. If the attorney has to make any contact with the vessel or the company running the ship, the master will be the primary gatekeeper of information in any event.

Good luck!

Christine C McCall

Christine C McCall


Wow! Fascinating. Thank you, Mr. Lorey!

Can't find what you're looking for?

Post a free question on our public forum.

Ask a Question

- or -

Search for lawyers by reviews and ratings.

Find a Lawyer