A federal appeals court Friday cleared the way for a court fight in a case filed by Filipino cruise-ship workers who allege they were improperly forced to remain on a ship for nearly two months after the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020.
A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower-court decision that said the dispute should be handled through arbitration.
The ruling sent the case back to U.S. district court in South Florida.
The named plaintiffs in the case, Ryan Maunes Maglana, and Francis Karl Bugayong, worked on Celebrity Cruises, Inc.’s in early 2020 when it stopped carrying passengers because of the pandemic.
The ship docked in San Diego on March 20. Maglana and Bugayong were fired on March 30, 2020, after Maglana stole a bottle of scotch from the ship’s bar, according to Friday’s ruling.
But Maglana, Bugayong, and hundreds of other Filipino crew members were forced to stay on the ship until May 26, 2020, when they were repatriated to their home country on a charter flight, the ruling said.
The lawsuit alleges false imprisonment and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
A district judge concluded that the claims needed to go to arbitration because of employment contracts the workers had signed.
But the appeals-court opinion by Judges Jill Pryor, Elizabeth Branch, and Frank Hull said the “employment agreements do not require arbitration of the intentional tort claims.”