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Maritime Casualty

Seamen May Be Exempt from FLSA Overtime Rules

Overtime Rules Under the FLSA

The Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) requires that some employees be paid at least “one and one-half times” their regular wages for time worked over 40 hours in a workweek. 29 U.S.C. § 207(a)(1). However, the FLSA has an exemption for employees who are classified as “seamen.”  29 U.S.C. § 213(b)(6).


The FLSA Seaman Exemption

For purposes of the FLSA, the term “seaman” does not have a “fixed and precise meaning,” requiring seaman status to be determined on a case-by-case basis. See 29 C.F.R. § 783.29.

Regulations state than an employee will be a seaman if “he performs, as master or subject to the authority, direction and control of the master aboard a vessel, service which is rendered primarily as an aid in the operation of such vessel as a means of transportation, provided he performs no substantial amount of work of a different character.” 29 C.F.R. § 783.31.  This potentially includes sailors, engineers, radio operators, firemen, pursers, surgeons, cooks, and stewards.  29 C.F.R. § 783.32.  However, workers “who are primarily concerned with loading and unloading cargo” are generally not considered seamen under the FLSA. Owens v. Sea River Maritime, Inc., 272 F.3d 698, 704 (5th Cir. 2001).


Halle v. Galliano Marine Service, LLC

Recently, in Halle v. Galliano Marine Service, LLC, 2016 WL 740440 (E.D. La. Feb. 25, 2016), the Eastern District of Louisiana determined that an employee was a seaman exempt from the FLSA overtime rule.  The employee was an ROV technician and supervisor.  ROVs (remotely operated underwater vehicles) are unoccupied mechanical devices tethered to a vessel and are controlled by the ROV crew aboard the vessel.  ROVs are used to provide offshore oilfield services.

Although the employee’s job duties were dedicated to the ROV itself and not the vessel, the court still found that he was a seaman. It determined that the ROV was simply an appurtenance of the vessel and contributed to the vessel’s mission.  The court analogized the situation to commercial divers and waitress on cruise ships, both of which have been found to be seamen under the Jones Act.


Halle provides just one example of an employee who qualifies for the FLSA seaman exemption.  Each case is different, and courts will evaluate both the job duties that employees perform and the proportion of their working hours that they devote to their particular duties.  If you have questions whether your employee qualifies for this exemption, it is advisable to contact an attorney.


Allen & Gooch is providing this legal update for informational purposes only. This article should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion as to any specific facts or circumstances. You should consult your own attorney concerning your particular situation and any specific legal questions you may have.