Louisiana Maritime Attorney Comments on Jones Act Arbitration

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The Terrebonne and Harrington decisions indicate that the courts are inclined to enforce arbitration clauses in agreements between seamen and their employers under circumstances where the agreement is not part of the “contract of employment of seamen.” For example, if an employer requests its seamen to execute a dispute resolution agreement containing an arbitration clause and if the seamen’s refusal to sign the agreement does not affect the seamen’s employment status or workload, then these factors would provide a court with evidence that the dispute resolution agreement was not part of the “contract of employment of seamen,” and thus the FAA’s strong federal policy in enforcing arbitration agreements would be applicable. In contrast, if the employer requests its seamen to execute the dispute resolution agreement or risk losing their job or face reduced hours, then this would provide a court with evidence that such agreement was part of the “contract of employment of seamen,” therefore falling within the exception of Section 1 of the FAA, with the result that there is no strong federal policy favoring arbitration of that dispute resolution agreement.

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