For the many men and women that work on the open water, the Jones Act is a pretty familiar term. It offers protection against death or injury while working for an employer while at sea. In that respect, it mimics some of the same qualities as workers’ compensation does for traditional jobs. Just as with workers’ compensation, the Jones Act has a vast list of requirements and regulations for those it governs, in order to be eligible for its protection.
While the general purpose of the Jones Act is to protect the full time employees of a vessel from injury or loss, the umbrella of its protection may extend far past employees to include independent contractors as well. The Jones Act is not without limitations, but so long as independent contractors are directly supervised by the employer, or essentially have their duties controlled by the employer, they may be considered an employee, and the Jones Act may be fully enforced. Great news for independent contractors, but something employers may want to argue when it comes time to cover a claim.
Although the question of who had supervision and control of contractors may be difficult to prove, some other requirements, may help create the link needed between the contractor and employer for the Jones Act to be enforced. If the contractor was paid through direct deposit or, if the contractor could be hired or fired by the employer, enforcement of the Jones Act is valid.
With so many details, loopholes and requirements for Jones Act protection, it is in the best interest of independent contractors to seek legal counsel when looking into a claim. A maritime attorney with maritime law experience may be able to help identify aspects of your employment that grant you the protection of the Jones Act.