A class action lawsuit filed this week on behalf of more than 1,000 Celebrity Cruises employees alleges that the company failed to protect its crew working on ships amid the novel coronavirus outbreak. According to an ABC news report, this lawsuit comes less than two weeks after a crewmember working on the Celebrity Infinity died after being medically evacuated by the U.S. Coast Guard, which later confirmed that the employee displayed coronavirus-like symptoms.
The lawsuit claims that the cruise ship industry got an early warning of how easily the virus could spread on large ocean liners when the initial cases were reported on the Diamond Princess. Between Feb. 7 and Feb. 23, the largest cluster of COVID-19 cases outside mainland China were on the Diamond Princess cruise ship. That ship was placed under quarantine for more than two weeks in Japan.
Crew Left Without Protection
The lawsuit alleges that in spite of having notice about the virus and that it was likely present on its ships, Celebrity allowed its employees to attend crew parties on board, eat in buffet settings and even required their participation in shipboard drills. The plaintiff representing the class in the suit, Alexandra Nedeltcheva, 54, has worked for Celebrity Cruises in the food and beverage department for the past 11 years.
She said her supervisor denied employees’ requests to wear masks until crewmembers from the ship were taken to the hospital. The crew was eventually placed under quarantine on March 25 and less than a week later, Nedeltcheva tested positive for COVID-19. She said she and her colleagues were wrongly put on the front lines and left to fight for their own health and safety. She said most of the food and beverage department got sick because they were constantly in contact with all people on board the ship.
The cruise industry is notorious for its poor treatment of workers. Employers ruthlessly take advantage of maritime laws, which often work in their favor. However, we hope more and more employees who have been exploited by their employers and exposed to the virus during this pandemic, are able to fight for their rights and get the justice and fair compensation they deserve. It is also important that these unscrupulous employers be exposed and held accountable. Our class action attorneys will continue to fight for employee rights and to hold unethical employers accountable.