Bouchard Transportation pays $375,000 in restitution to whistleblower

Bouchard Transportation Co Inc. and three former and current management officials have paid $375,000 in restitution to a seaman whose brother was one of two seamen killed in the October 20th 2017 Buster Bouchard/B No 255 explosion off Port Aransas, Texas, reports The US Department of Labour

The seaman alleged that the company fired him for cooperating with investigators and reporting safety concerns to the US Coast Guard.

Bouchard Transportation Co Inc and the individual respondents agreed in addition to take other remedial actions in a settlement agreement with the US Department of Labour’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to resolve violations of the whistleblower protection provisions of the Seaman’s Protection Act (SPA).

Investigators for OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Programmes found that the employers’ actions constituted retaliation against the seaman for protected activity under the SPA and would dissuade a seaman from reporting safety issues. Reporting alleged violations of maritime safety laws and regulations, cooperating with safety investigations and furnishing information to the Coast Guard about facts related to any marine casualty resulting in death are protected activities under the SPA.

OSHA Regional Administrator Richard Mendelson in New York said that “employers and vessel owners must know and respect that, under the Seaman’s Protection Act, seamen have the right to report safety concerns and cooperate with the US Coast Guard and other safety investigators”.

Under the agreement, the company must remove any reference to the seaman’s termination and exercising of his rights under the SPA from its files, and provide a neutral reference if contacted by any prospective employer. The employer must train its managers and employees about seamen’s SPA rights and post a Notice to Seamen about their rights under the SPA.