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Administrative Review Board Upholds $1.1 Million Maritime Whistleblower Award

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Administrative Review Board (ARB) decided to uphold a $1.1 million whistleblower award issued to a ship captain who lost his job after reporting safety violations on his vessel.

The captain, John Loftus, filed a whistleblower lawsuit against Horizon Lines, Inc., his former employer, under the Seaman’s Protection Act. In the claim, he alleged retaliation. The SPA prohibits any form of retaliation against seamen who report safety violations in the course of their work to the U.S. Coast Guard.

The award is believed to be the largest of its kind awarded for a violation of the Seaman’s Protection Act.

Background of the case

Loftus served on the Horizon Trader, and between 2011 and 2013 reported several regulatory and safety violations to the Coast Guard, the American Bureau of Shipping and Horizon management. Some of his reports included concerns about old and inoperable equipment, potential power box fires and inoperable fuel systems.

The final report came in April 2013, in which he expressed his concerns about the orders from his shore-side superintendent to perform mandatory drug testing during a severe weather storm. Loftus believed drug testing could not be safely made a priority during such inclement weather and safety concerns. He was demoted the following month, and ultimately resigned.

The court sided with Loftus, agreeing he acted in accordance with the SPA to make his concerns known, and ultimately awarded him the $1.1 million figure.

To learn more about how to best proceed with reporting incidents of wrongdoing in your workplace, consult a skilled Dallas whistleblower lawyer with Kardell Law Group.

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