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Workers Blame Royal Caribbean For Virus' Spread On Ships

By Jasmin Jackson · April 30, 2020, 6:10 PM EDT

Royal Caribbean workers slapped the cruise line with a proposed class suit in Florida federal court Thursday, claiming their employer failed to safeguard them from COVID-19 in an "alarming lack of caution" that they say led to at least three crew members' deaths.

According to the complaint, Royal Caribbean Cruises "glaringly failed to follow even the most basic safety precautions," allegedly ignoring recommendations made by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the management of coronavirus outbreaks and failing to promptly diagnose infected workers or provide proper treatment.

"Royal Caribbean's flagrant failure to protect its crew has already resulted in hundreds of positive COVID-19 cases and what is more likely thousands given that there is limited testing being done on its ships," Michael Winkleman, an attorney for the proposed class, told Law360 on Thursday.

Named plaintiff Mykola Molchun claims the popular cruise line "negligently" exposed crew members to COVID-19 by mandating workers to participate in shipboard drills and continuing to allow employees to eat in buffet settings. Molchun says that after suspending cruise operations in March because of the pandemic, the cruise line threw a St. Patrick's Day party for more than 1,000 crew members despite the CDC's advisories against large gatherings.

According to Molchun, at least three crew members who worked on different ships died in April alone. The suit claims those who did not die from COVID-19 will suffer lifelong ailments. The suit seeks damages for medical expenses, lost wages, mental distress and physical suffering.

The complaint estimates more than 10,000 workers make up the proposed class, including crew members who had either been subjected to dangerous conditions or contracted the virus because of Royal Caribbean Cruises' "lackadaisical approach to the safety" of its employees.

The complaint argues that no arbitration provisions in workers' employment contracts "expressly call for arbitration of class action employment-related claims." According to the complaint, the cruise giant terminated employment contracts with all of its crew members on March 25, voiding any arbitration provisions that its workers could have been bound to in this suit.

Royal Caribbean subsidiary Celebrity Cruises was also hit with a COVID-19 related class action by a crew member in April, facing accusations that it failed to take appropriate measures to protect thousands of workers on its ships.

Representatives for Royal Caribbean did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The proposed class is represented by Jason R. Margulies, Michael A. Winkleman, Jacqueline Garcell and L. Alex Perez of Lipcon Margulies Alsina & Winkleman PA.

Counsel information for Royal Caribbean Cruises LTD was not available Thursday.

The case is Molchun v. Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., case number 1:20-cv-21792 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

--Editing by Amy Rowe.

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