Law360 (January 8, 2021, 6:44 PM EST) -- A Florida federal judge signed off Thursday on a settlement that will provide up to two months' severance pay for former employees of a Bahamas cruise ship operator who were terminated when the cruise industry shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom granted a request for preliminary approval of a deal in which Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line agreed to pay about $612,000 to 276 class members who were not paid the two months' severance required under their employment agreements after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a No Sail Order on March 14.
The deal includes up to $262,500 in fees and expenses for the two firms representing the class: Lipcon Margulies Alsina & Winkleman PA and The Moskowitz Law Firm PLLC.
In addition, the cruise line agreed to change its policy to ensure that should another catastrophe happen, there will be a mechanism in place so crew can work out these issues, according to the settlement.
A similar deal had previously been presented to Judge Bloom, who rejected it in part because she had not been properly made aware of the cruise line's defenses in the case. But the parties, in their request for approval of the settlement, say they "gave careful consideration to each and every comment made by the court."
"Judge Bloom was extremely generous in providing all her thorough insight and suggestions, so that we could all go back to mediation and be able to improve this great settlement," class attorney Adam Moskowitz said. "The class plaintiffs were lucky to have Judge Bloom on this case and the very cooperative and experienced defense counsel."
In the suit, lead plaintiff Dragan Janicijevic, a Serbian casino dealer who worked on board the Grand Classica, said he and his former colleagues were moved from the Grand Classica to the cruise line's other vessel, the Grand Celebration, in March. Although many crew members were sent home, some stayed on board and were unable to go home due to travel restrictions.
Janicijevic accused the cruise line of reneging on its contractual obligation to pay its crewmembers two months' severance when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the cruise industry. He also demanded pay for work that was performed while the crewmembers remained on board.
A representative for the cruise line could not be reached for comment Friday.
Janicijevic is represented by Michael A. Winkleman, Daniel W. Grammes and Andrew S. Freedman of Lipcon Margulies Alsina & Winkleman PA, and Adam Moskowitz and Howard M. Bushman of The Moskowitz Law Firm PLLC.
Classica Cruise Operator Ltd. and Paradise Cruise Line Operator Ltd. Inc. are represented by Jeffrey E. Foreman, Catherine J. MacIvor and Catherine A. Mancing of Foreman Friedman PA.
The case is Janicijevic v. Classica Cruise Operator Ltd et al., case number 1:20-cv-23223, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.
--Additional reporting by Caroline Simson. Editing by Adam LoBelia.
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