A barge captain working in New Orleans was wrongfully fired for telling the Coast Guard about engine problems with a boat he was steering, the U.S. Department of Labor said Monday.
The captain’s company, St. James Stevedoring Partners LLC, agreed to pay $245,000 in pay, compensation and attorney’s fees to settle the whistleblower case, the department said.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigated the captain’s firing and treated him as a whistleblower.
The Labor Department said the captain first alerted the Coast Guard about a faulty starboard engine in June 2011 and was suspended by St. James Stevedoring. He was told not to report problems to the Coast Guard without the company’s approval, according to the Labor Department.
The captain reported the same problem again in August 2011 and the company fired him.
Elizabeth Todd, a spokeswoman for the Department of Labor, said the department does not identify names of employees involved in whistleblower cases. But she said the complainant is from Louisiana and was working off the coast of Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico when the alleged incidents occurred.
OSHA found that St. James Stevedoring violated the Seaman’s Protection Act, which gives seamen legal protection when they complain to the Coast Guard. The Labor Department said riverboat captains are required to report lost engines to the Coast Guard and that they can lose their licenses if they don’t.
Since October 2010, OSHA has enforced the Seaman’s Protection Act.
St. James Stevedoring also must clear the captain’s personnel records of information pertaining to the incident and give him a neutral job reference.
The company did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
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