Q: Can a captain charge deckhands for gear/supplies as he deems fit?

Normal deductions are food/fuel. The following are extra.

2 examples.

A captain from another boat needs to borrow a grapple hook. With the captains permission a deckhand takes the hook to the other boat and helps with the task. The hook is accidentally left on the other boat and they leave town and the hook behind. The captain blames the deckhand and takes the cost of the hook from his pay. Knowing he’ll get the hook back.

2. The captain just bought new crab pots this season. Something he is going to write off on taxes. During crab fishing crab pots are lost at sea throughout the season due to no fault of the crew. Run over by over boats, stuck in the mud, etc. The pots value roughly 150$-250$ each. The loss is tallied at the end of the season and the captain splits the charge evenly among crew.

Especially with the pots being a write off, can the captain just charge crew for whatever he believes they owe him for whatever reason he deems they owe him for?

1 Lawyer Answer
Brent Bowden
Brent Bowden
  • Lynnwood, WA
  • Licensed in Washington

A: I think the answer depends on how the crew is being paid. It is also potentially not a WA answer if the work is being done in Alaska.

In WA, an employer cannot charge an employee for broke/lost equipment unless it was an intentional or dishonest act that caused it to be lost/broken. I doubt either described scenario applies. The employer would have a better case for the hook, possibly being ablet to claim it was gross negligence.

However, crabbing is often not done as hourly work. If you are being paid a share of the profits, this is potentially a question of how "profits" are defined (and what costs are deductible from gross profits to arrive at net profits, assuming that is the basis for your share) and not really an instance of an employer "deducting" broken/lost equipment from a paycheck--at least for the crab pots.

Tim Akpinar agrees with this answer

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