Workers stranded on Celebrity Cruises ship can take legal action, panel rules say

The 315-metre-long (1,033ft) passenger ship ‘Celebrity Equinox’ sails on the Ems river between Papenburg and Leer in northern Germany June 20, 2009. The liner was built by German shipyard Meyer Werft in Papenburg for the US-based “Celebrity Cruises” cruise line. REUTERS/Morris MacMatzen

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  • Workers have been laid off but unable to jump ship for two months during the pandemic
  • A judge sent the case to private arbitration, citing agreements
  • The appeals court said the claims did not arise out of the workers’ employment

(Reuters) – A U.S. appeals court said on Friday that two former Celebrity Cruises Inc crew members who say they were fired and then forced to stay on a ship for two months during the COVID-19 pandemic can sue legal action against the company in court rather than private arbitration.

A unanimous three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals says the arbitration agreements the workers signed only cover claims arising out of their employment and not plaintiffs’ willful misconduct claims. occurred after their dismissal.

Plaintiffs Ryan Maglana and Francis Bugayong, citizens of the Philippines, had already been on the ship for more than six weeks when Celebrity fired them in March 2020 for allegedly stealing a bottle of scotch, according to court documents.

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But they claim that although the ship docked several times, Celebrity did not allow them and 200 other Filipino workers to disembark until late May, after Maglana sued the company while it was still at sea. board the ship.

Maglana and Bugayong accused Celebrity of false imprisonment and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The company has denied any wrongdoing.

Celebrity and its parent company, Royal Caribbean Group, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Philip Parrish, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said his clients were happy with the ruling. He also said they deny stealing alcohol.

Many cruise ships were grounded early in the pandemic as the United States and other countries decided to close their borders to stem the spread of COVID-19. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ordered cruise ships to cease operations for several months after the pandemic began.

Celebrity’s Millennium cruise ship, where the plaintiffs worked to store drinks, stopped carrying passengers in February 2020 and in the months since sailed from the Philippines to Hawaii, Mexico and San Diego before eventually allow crew members to leave the ship in May, according to documents filed in Friday’s Case.

U.S. District Judge Jose Martinez in October 2020 sent the lawsuit to arbitration, agreeing with Celebrity that the plaintiffs’ arbitration agreements applied because their lawsuit arose out of their employment.

The 11th Circuit backtracked, saying the claims were not within the plaintiffs’ employment. Maglana and Bugayong were out of work once Celebrity stopped carrying passengers and were not even employed by Celebrity for most of their time on the ship, the court heard.

The panel included circuit judges Jill Pryor, Elizabeth Branch and Frank Hull.

The case is Maglana v. Celebrity Cruises Inc, 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 20-14206.

For Applicants: Philip Parrish

For fame: Michael Dono of Hamilton Miller & Birthisel

Read more:

US cruise lines suspend trips until October 31

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Daniel Wiessner

Thomson Reuters

Dan Wiessner (@danwiessner) reports on labor and employment and immigration law, including litigation and policy development. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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