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| The Cochran Firm - Dallas

From a honeymooner going overboard to alleged medical malpractice (update: not to mention the filing of Princess cruise lawsuits), it has not been a banner year for public relations of cruise lines. To add to the growing list of bad PR, Carnival Cruise Lines will pay $6.25 million to thousands of current and former crew members who alleged in federal lawsuits they were not paid enough overtime, the workers’ attorney said.

If approved by U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke, the settlement would mean payouts of between $100 and $150 for nine named lawsuit plaintiffs and other amounts for as many as 39,500 people who worked on Carnival ships beginning in November 2001.

“They’re very hardworking people who come from all over the world,” said the attorney representing the crew members. “From their perspective, it’s a significant amount of money.”

The Miami-based cruise line will not admit wrongdoing under the settlement but will establish a grievance and arbitration process for pay disputes, according to the attorney.

Officials at Carnival, the world’s largest cruise line and a subsidiary of Carnival Corp., declined comment Wednesday because the case is still pending. A court filing said both sides have agreed to a settlement, but did not specify an amount.

According to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the lawsuits were filed in March and October by Carnival workers who said the cruise line failed to pay them for work more than their regular schedules, which are often 70-hour work weeks. Carnival and other cruise lines typically don’t follow U.S. wage and labor laws because their ships carry foreign flags.

One of the lawsuits was initially dismissed but the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was considering whether it could continue when the settlement was reached. The second lawsuit was on hold pending the outcome of that appeal.

A similar lawsuit is pending in Miami federal court against Princess Cruises, a California-based subsidiary of Carnival. Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. settled an overtime pay dispute in 2002 in New York.

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