Many of our clients and potential clients ask if there is really a ‘blacklist’ in the offshore oil industry. This list refers to individuals who supposedly have been ‘blackballed’ 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 blacklist 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 ‘blacklist’, 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 blacklist 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 blackballed, ask yourself why they would say that to you. The ‘blacklist’ 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.
This is a very big concern of many of our clients and one of the main reasons they decide to file a claim. Your health conditions must be disclosed to other employers so if you have now had an MRI, CT, nerve test or other medical examination that finds a problem, you should disclose this to any future employers. This, in turn, means that your chances of getting hired may not be that great.
And while you think this means maybe you should just return to work for your company, as they may be the only company that hires you back, this may be a huge mistake. The problem is your company may want you to return to work with them, BUT ONLY SHORT TERM. It simply ruins your claim if you receive a complete release, return to work for your company for a few months, and then your company lays you off or lets you go. Many workers hurry to obtain a full duty release thinking it will help them get back to work, only to later realize they will be let go down the road.
I always ask potential clients “do you think you could take your medical records and test results to another company and have them hire you on after they review your records?” If you’re worried about the answer to this question, then chances are your best option may be to pursue any claim you have to protect your future.
Many times, when a seaman is injured offshore, the injury is severe enough that they cannot go back to the same type of work they were performing previously. Unfortunately for the seaman, his company is under no obligation to help him find any work whatsoever in the future.
What’s more, they will likely try to rush him back to doing the same work he was doing before. The reason they do this is to prove that he is healthy and that he can go back to making the same kind of money he made previously, so they don’t have to pay any wage claim to him. Sadly, returning to the same type of work may make the injury worse, but by the time you know that your husband has already “proven” that he is healthy enough to return to work, and he may not be able to get any compensation going forward.
At The Young Firm, we send our clients to a vocational expert – or job expert – to test the client academically in order to identify jobs on land that would be suitable for him. Sometimes, those land jobs do pay as much as the client used to earn; unfortunately, sometimes they do not. We provide this service to our clients during their case so that we can show that the client is trying to go back to work, and also, that they will make much less on land than offshore. This illustrates the wage difference for which the company is responsible.
If you have questions about your husband’s injury, what his company should/should not be doing, or what we can do to help you and your family, contact us today and talk to one of our experienced attorneys.