U.S. Fifth Circuit Issues Decision re Seaman Status

The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an en banc decision in Sanchez v. Smart Fabricators of Texas, L.L.C.

The Court held that the plaintiff, Sanchez, a land-based welder directed by his employer to work on two discrete short-term transient repair jobs on two vessels, was not a seaman. Sanchez was not engaged in sea-based work that satisfied the requirement that he be substantially connected to a fleet of vessels in terms of the nature of his work.

The Court concluded that simply asking whether a worker is subject to the “perils of the sea” is not adequate to resolve the nature element under Chandris. Rather, the Court ruled that the following additional inquiries should be made:

(1) Does the worker owe his allegiance to the vessel, rather than simply to a shoreside employer?
(2) Is the work sea-based or involve seagoing activity?
(3) (a) Is the worker’s assignment to a vessel limited to performance of a discrete task after which the worker’s connection to the vessel ends, or (b) Does the worker’s assignment include sailing with the vessel from port to port or location to location?