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CREWMEN’S TIPS – SHOULD THEY BE INCLUDED IN UNEARNED WAGES?

Seamen working on charter vessels, cruise ships, and excursion vessels frequently receive tips in addition to their salaries. When crewmen are injured or become ill in the service of their vessels, under the General Maritime Law they are entitled to receive unearned wages until the end of the voyage. The length of the voyage may be determined by contract, or where there is no contract by the length of the season or by verbal agreements.

Tips received by crewmen on many of these vessels constitute a large part of the crewman’s salary. Under maritime law, passenger tips to crewmen should be included in calculating unearned wages. This very issue was addressed by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Flores v. Carnival Cruise 47 F.3d 1120 (1995). Although the Court applied maritime law to this issue, in deciding the case the Court noted that State Workers Compensation Acts routinely recognize tips as part of workers wages. The Court held that tips are wages and that the seaman’s right to unearned wages should include the full amount of money to be paid to a seaman during a voyage.

When a seaman is injured or becomes ill while working aboard a vessel, receiving his wages for the length of the voyage that he would have been on but for his injury or illness is an important basic benefit. The maritime lawyers at Beard Stacey & Jacobsen are dedicated to protecting seamen’s rights, and getting seamen full and fair compensation for their injuries.