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The travel industry has been hit hard by the COVID-19 epidemic. One of the worst-hit sectors has been the cruise industry, which has had to entirely suspend operations on top of receiving bad publicity after numerous outbreaks affected multiple vessels.

During the most recent round of stimulus funding, many areas of the travel industry got a bailout. However, according to the NY Times, the cruise industry has been completely disregarded due to tax law. Because these companies are not headquartered in the US and don’t pay taxes as US companies, they do not qualify for the stimulus package.

This has left many of the major cruise companies in a bind. Many of these businesses have furloughed workers en mass, sending them home without pay. Not all workers have suffered this fate, though, which leaves open the possibility of cruise companies being in breach of contract.

The Facts About Being Furloughed

The term “furlough” means a temporary leave of absence for employees initiated by a company. This can be for a wide range of purposes, from financial hardship to seasonal work.

For the hundreds and thousands of employees that work for cruise lines, this has stemmed from the complete halt of tourism worldwide. What made the situation worse, though, is that cruise ship companies initially told employees to carry on as if everything were normal.

The told their workers to enjoy themselves while at port. To carry on with their normal activities. And they did not instruct them to take any extra precautions such as social distancing.

This led to infections aboard cruise ships, which began to spread among the crew. The result: employees were furloughed due to sickness or being exposed to someone who was diagnosed with the COVID-19 virus. For many, this meant being sent home without pay or benefits and without any assurances of returning to work anytime soon.

Numerous stories have played out this way.

Breach of Contract and Cruise Companies

Many of the employees who were furloughed have contracts with their cruise company, meaning they have rights laid out that must be followed. The tricky part is that (as we touched on above) not all cruise companies are registered in the United States, with the rights of employees dictated by the country where a company is registered.

The situation has led to some remarkable stories of harsh working conditions and low pay for cruise workers. What’s worse is that in many of these cases, employees have had to fend for themselves.

Despite this, cruise employees still have rights. Cruise line companies are required to follow the contracts that they have signed with employees. Any deviation from this contract constitutes a breach of contract and entitles employees to proper compensation.

Some of the most common ways that cruise line companies can be in breach of the contract include:

  • Failure to pay employees
  • Withholding benefits laid out in the contract.
  • Terminating employees without reasonable cause
  • Letting employees go without agreed-upon benefits

These are just some of the most common reasons. Because each employee’s contract is different, there can be many other ways that a cruise line company can be in breach of contract.

Florida Maritime Law Lawyer

If you are a cruise ship employee who has been negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is essential that you know your rights and understand how to fight back if the company you work for has breached your contract.


About the Author:

Andrew Winston is a partner at the personal injury law firm of Winston Law. For over 20 years, he has successfully represented countless people in all kinds of personal injury cases, with a particular focus on child injury, legal malpractice, and premises liability. He has been recognized for excellence in the representation of injured clients by admission to the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, is AV Preeminent Rated by the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, enjoys a 10.0 rating by AVVO as a Top Personal Injury Attorney, has been selected as a Florida “SuperLawyer” from 2011-2017 – an honor reserved for the top 5% of lawyers in the state – and was voted to Florida Trend’s ”Legal Elite” and as one of the Top 100 Lawyers in Florida and one of the Top 100 Lawyers in the Miami area for 2015, 2016, and 2017.