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Cruise Line Held Unpaid Crew ‘Hostage’ Amid Pandemic: Suit (1)

Aug. 4, 2020, 9:51 PMUpdated: Aug. 5, 2020, 1:41 PM

Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line is facing allegations that it “effectively held hostage” crewmembers by making them stay aboard its ships without pay during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a proposed class action filed Tuesday in a federal court in Miami.

Dragan Janicijevic, a Serbian citizen who worked as a casino dealer aboard the Grand Celebration, says he was subject to “involuntary servitude” on the ship. “The crew were unnecessarily kept on the ships for months on end, many thousands of miles away from their homes and families,” the complaint says.

Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line “worked tirelessly” to repatriate as many workers as possible and “provided accommodations, food and onboard credit for incidentals” for those unable to return home because their governments closed their borders, the company said Tuesday evening in response to the lawsuit.

The cruise line also claimed that “to-date, more than 90 percent” of its workers “have safely returned home.”

When the pandemic abruptly halted all cruise sailings, the cruise line unilaterally canceled all crewmembers’ contracts and refused to pay them the two months’ wages they’re owed upon termination, the complaint alleges.

Further, the cruise line forced these workers to sign agreements stating they were staying onboard voluntarily and without pay by threatening them that they wouldn’t be rehired otherwise, the complaint claims.

The cruise line also failed to send workers back to their countries within a reasonable time and misled them about making arrangements to do so because it didn’t want to buy them flights home, it says.

The complaint is against Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line LLC, Paradise Cruise Line Operator Ltd Inc., and Classica Cruise Operator Ltd. in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida on behalf of similarly situated workers.

Causes of Action: Jones Act negligence and failure to repatriate; Seaman’s Wage Act violations; forced labor and peonage under 18 U.S.C. §1595; breach of contract; negligent misrepresentation; and false imprisonment.

Relief: All recoverable damages; wage penalties; interest; and attorney’s fees.

Potential Class Size: “In excess of 10,000 members.”

Response: Bahamas Paradise didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Attorneys: Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman PA represent the workers.

The case is Janicijevic v. Classica Cruise Operator, Ltd., S.D. Fla., No. 1:20-cv-23223, 8/4/20.

(Updates Aug. 4 story to include company's response)

To contact the reporter on this story: Kathleen Dailey at kdailey@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Patrick L. Gregory at pgregory@bloomberglaw.com

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