OSHA says a Long Island petroleum barge company illegally retaliated against a seaman by firing him for cooperating with a U.S. Coast Guard investigation.

Investigators found Bouchard Transportation Co. Inc., of Melville and its officers violated whistleblower protection provisions of the Seaman's Protection Act.

The action of the officers—Morton S. Bouchard III, Brendan Bouchard, and Kevin Donohue—amounted to retaliation against the seaman for protected activity and could dissuade a reasonable seaman from reporting safety issues, OSHA said.

The OSHA investigation stemmed from the Oct. 20, 2017 explosion of the barge Buster Boucher/B No. 255 near Port Aransas, Texas, that killed two Boucher Transportation employees.

The whistleblower—the brother of one of the blast victims—said he was fired three months after reporting safety concerns to the Coast Guard.

Violations

Under the Seaman's Protection Act, reporting alleged violations of maritime safety laws, cooperating with USCG safety investigations, and providing the guard information on a marine casualty resulting in death are protected activities.

The seaman began assisting investigators within days of the incident and was fired three months later.

OSHA preliminarily ordered Bouchard Transportation to pay the seaman:

  •  Back pay with interest plus compensatory damages for losses to his 401(k)
  • An additional two years of lost wages in lieu of reinstatement
  • No less than $50,000 for emotional distress, pain and suffering, loss of reputation, and mental anguish resulting from Bouchard's adverse employment action
  • No less than $200,000 in punitive damages for Bouchard Transportation Company and the three officers' reckless disregard for the law, callous indifference for seamen's rights under the SPA, and egregious conduct

Whistleblower Protections

OSHA also ordered the employer to not make any adverse statements regarding the seaman's termination or any of the facts of the case.

In addition, within 60 days of receiving OSHA's preliminary order, the company must train managers and employees about seamen's rights under the SPA without fear of retaliation, and provide proof of such training to OSHA.

"This case revealed troubling safety violations in the wake of a seaman's death and it exemplifies how a culture of intimidation can have disastrous results for seamen," said OSHA regional administrator Richard Mendelson.

OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of SPA and 22 other statutes that protect employees who report violations of various airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, motor vehicle safety, healthcare reform, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime, and securities laws.


For more information, contact CBIA's Phillip Montgomery (860.244.1982).