Many of our clients and potential clients ask if there is really a ‘black list' in the offshore oil industry. This list refers to individuals who supposedly have been ‘black listed' from working in the industry because they either had a serious accident or they made a claim against a former employer. These clients are concerned that if they file suit for a serious injury, they will never be able to work offshore again. Not surprisingly their employers are usually the ones who told the injured employee of this ‘list'.
We have never seen such a list and, in our opinion as maritime lawyers who have helped injured maritime workers for more than 50 years, a black list does not exist. We believe this for two strong reasons.
First, many of our clients have actually returned to offshore work after their claims are resolved. Let me say that again. We know of more than a few individuals who successfully return to work offshore after we successfully resolve their cases. These clients do not go to work for small, unknown companies either. They fill out employment applications, list all of their past employers including the one which they filed suit against, and go on to pass the physical. These individuals are honest and they have been re-hired for offshore work after they recover enough to return to work. If there was such a ‘black list', surely these workers would not have been able to return to work for major offshore drilling companies.
Also, today many laws prevent offshore companies from trying to ‘blacklist' any workers. In fact, when employers are called for references, legally they should not even discuss the fact that a claim may have been filed by the employee against the company. I believe that rather than trying to black list injured employees, today most companies are very sensitive and careful not to disclose that the employee was either injured or filed a claim against that company.
If you are being told by your company that you could be ‘black listed', ask yourself why they would say that to you. The ‘black list' is an old rumor in the oil field from decades ago. If it ever existed, it was before many laws were passed to protect injured workers. If your company is threatening that you may be blacklisted if you file a claim for an injury, call us immediately. You should also report them to the Department of Labor and the United States Coast Guard employment office.