• ITVI.USA
    15,999.700
    -30.820
    -0.2%
  • OTLT.USA
    2.805
    -0.004
    -0.1%
  • OTRI.USA
    22.190
    -0.030
    -0.1%
  • OTVI.USA
    15,985.320
    -31.230
    -0.2%
  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
    2.950
    -0.570
    -16.2%
  • TSTOPVRPM.CHIATL
    3.610
    0.650
    22%
  • TSTOPVRPM.DALLAX
    1.370
    -0.240
    -14.9%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
    3.550
    0.210
    6.3%
  • TSTOPVRPM.PHLCHI
    2.320
    0.220
    10.5%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXSEA
    4.110
    0.250
    6.5%
  • WAIT.USA
    126.000
    0.000
    0%
  • ITVI.USA
    15,999.700
    -30.820
    -0.2%
  • OTLT.USA
    2.805
    -0.004
    -0.1%
  • OTRI.USA
    22.190
    -0.030
    -0.1%
  • OTVI.USA
    15,985.320
    -31.230
    -0.2%
  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
    2.950
    -0.570
    -16.2%
  • TSTOPVRPM.CHIATL
    3.610
    0.650
    22%
  • TSTOPVRPM.DALLAX
    1.370
    -0.240
    -14.9%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
    3.550
    0.210
    6.3%
  • TSTOPVRPM.PHLCHI
    2.320
    0.220
    10.5%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXSEA
    4.110
    0.250
    6.5%
  • WAIT.USA
    126.000
    0.000
    0%
American ShipperShipping

Judge awards over $1m in damages to Horizon whistleblower

Captain John Loftus, who was fired in 2013 after working for Horizon Line for 20 years, has been awarded $655,000 in back wages, $225,000 in punitive damages, $10,000 for emotional distress, and more than $200,000 in legal costs.

   U.S. Department of Labor Administrative Law Judge Jonathan C. Calianos has ordered Horizon Lines to pay more than $1 million in damages to a former employee who was fired after reporting safety violations on the vessel on which he served.
   The judge awarded Captain John Loftus, who was fired in 2013 after working for Horizon Line for 20 years, $655,000 in back wages and interest, $225,000 in punitive damages, $10,000 for emotional distress and more than $200,000 in legal costs.
   Loftus served as ship master on the containership Horizon Trader, sailing between New York, Jacksonville, Fla. and San Juan, Puerto Rico, but was abruptly removed from his post for reporting safety violations to the U.S. Coast Guard and its delegated inspection agency, the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS).
   “Captain Loftus was the most safety conscientious Master in the entire Horizon Lines fleet” with “an unusually strong commitment to the safety of his vessel and crew,” Judge Calianos wrote in his 48-page decision. When his attempts to alert Horizon Lines to safety hazards onboard the vessel were ignored, “Loftus resorted to reporting safety concerns to the regulatory agencies because of Horizon’s consistent failure to correct hazardous conditions aboard the Trader. Loftus was clearly a thorn in Horizon’s side.”
   Under the Seaman’s Protection Act (SPA), merchant marine seamen are protected from “retaliation” by employers, but due to the shipping industry’s pervasive culture of retaliation against seamen who report safety hazards to outside enforcement agencies, very few SPA cases have been brought, according to Loftus’ lawyer.
   “Now comes a landmark million dollar SPA award exposing that culture of intimidation and declaring it no longer will be tolerated,” he wrote of the decision in a recent blog post.
   Calianos referred to the company’s behavior, specifically in disciplining Loftus for legally protected whistleblowing, as “reprehensible,” and as such imposed penalties approaching the statutory maximum as a deterrent.
   “The need to deter others from engaging in similar conduct is uniquely critical in the SPA whistleblower context given such claims involved public safety, and an adverse action may have a chilling effect on the willingness of other seamen to report a violation,” he wrote. “This is especially true considering how small the marine industry is, and how quickly word travels within it. Horizon’s retaliation against Loftus is exceptionally troublesome considering his reputation for being an exemplar of safety, which is exactly what the SPA is designed to promote.”
   The case is John Loftus v. Horizon Lines, Inc. and Matson Alaska, Inc.

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