The United States Supreme Court defined a “Jones Act” seaman in Chandris v. Latsis, 515 U.S. 347 (1995) as an officer, crewmember or worker who spends 30 percent or more of his or her time aboard a vessel in navigable waters. This means that the Jones Act covers the regular crewmembers but also any person aboard the vessel which is regularly employed to perform duties that contribute to the single vessel or fleet of vessels’ function.
Generally, Courts use a three part test to determine seaman status. First, a seaman must work aboard a vessel on navigable waters. Courts vary in their definition of navigable waters, some consider a navigable waterway to be essentially any body of water in which a vessel can be transported. Other Courts have narrowly construed navigable waters and do not include inland lakes or waterways.
Second, a seaman must spend 30 percent of his time aboard a vessel and perform duties that contribute to the function of the vessel. Therefore, a seaman does not need to be a worker that always works aboard vessels but it can be one that occasionally works aboard vessels and contributes to the function of the vessel.
Third, as mentioned above, a seaman must contribute to the function of the vessel. This means that the worker’s duties must in some way relate to the operation of the vessel. It is not sufficient that the seaman or crewmember be a mere passenger. The seaman must be actively contributing to the daily function and operation of the vessel. The court will look at the duties that the seaman performed while aboard the vessel to determine whether it fits the criteria of contributing to the function of the vessel.
Under the Jones Act, seamen have certain rights including:
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