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09 Apr

Unearned Wages - What are they and when are you entitled to them?

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Unearned Wages - What are they and when are you entitled to them?

Most Seaman to not know what the term on “Unearned Wages” means. It is actually self-explanatory. When a Seaman is injured, he is entitled to maintenance and cure, as well as unearned wages, until the end of his voyage, or the end of his contract, or when he is determined to be “fit for duty” by his doctor. Most Seaman are paid base wages, overtime wages, holiday pay, penalty pay, and vacation pay. All types of wages are added up to go to determine what a  Seaman is entitled to as his unearned wages. For example, if the Seaman was injured on June 1, was taken to the emergency room, was treated by a doctor for the next 2 months, then his doctor gave him a fit for duty slip to go back to work, he would be entitled to 2 months of unearned wages. This assumes that the Seaman’s employment contract did not terminate during those 2 months.  Therefore, the Seaman would determine his total daily wages, by adding up all of the wages listed above, and would receive a check usually every 2 weeks from his employer, while he is unable to work due to an injury, as unearned wages. This will continue until the shorter of his doctor saying he is fit for duty, the Seaman’s contract ends or the voyage ends. Anyone of these events will trigger the end of the unearned wages the Seaman is entitled to.

It has been my experience that many employers will just pay the injured Seaman’s maintenance rate, sometimes determined by union contract, sometimes determined by what it costs to live at home and eat at home, until he is fit for duty. Plus Cure, the amount of medical bills ow him until the Seaman reaches maximum medical improvement. A Seaman has a very powerful remedy for wages not paid timely by his employer. Under Maritime Law, if the Seaman is not paid his wages promptly, it’s my opinion that unearned wages falls into this category, he can be entitled to 2 days pay for every day the payment is late. Therefore, if you’re making $200 a day, and your employer is a week late, you’re entitled to $400 a day time 7 days which totals $2,800. This law is very helpful in getting a Seaman paid his entire unearned wages.

If you are injured on a vessel, and are not sure if you’re getting all of your benefits such as Maintenance, Cure and Unearned Wages, give us a call so that we can help you determine right amount of money you’re entitled to.

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