McPherson appeals the trial court's summary judgment
dismissal of his lawsuit against his former employer, Fishing
Company of Alaska. McPherson claims that the "period of
effectiveness" term in his employment contract
prohibited Fishing Company from firing him without cause
during that period. Because McPherson's contract
contained an at-will employment provision and the statute
requiring a period of effectiveness does not change the
historical rule of at-will employment in maritime contracts,
McPherson signed an "Employment At-Will Contract"
with Fishing Company of Alaska in September 2015. Fishing
Company agreed to pay McPherson $200 per day as an assistant
engineer on a Fishing Company vessel. The contract also said
that Fishing Company employed McPherson at will and could
"terminate [him] at any time, with or without notice and
with or without cause." The contract period was 90 days.
Fishing Company fired McPherson 18 days in.
sued, alleging Fishing Company wrongfully fired
He asked for lost wages and other relief, asserting that
because 46 U.S.C. § 10601 requires a fishing agreement
to include a "period of effectiveness, " he could
not be fired without cause during that period.
parties filed cross motions for partial summary judgment. The
trial court granted Fishing Company's motion. The trial
court then entered a final judgment in favor of Fishing
Company. McPherson appeals.
review an order granting summary judgment de novo, making the
same inquiry as the trial court. We will affirm summary
judgment where there is no genuine issue as to any material
fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter
deciding an admiralty or maritime case, this court must
follow substantive maritime statutes and common law and may
not order a remedy that harms the uniformity of that
A court interpreting a maritime contract must apply federal
favoring seamen is "largely remedial and calls for
liberal interpretation in favor of the
seamen." Since 1813, a federal statute has required
fishing agreements to be in writing. This ensures that seamen
"have a clear and enforceable written commitment
defining the consideration for which they risk their life at
sea" and protecting them "'from the
duress, coercion, or deception that might result if masters
were permitted to ship them out to sea without first
providing written articles.'"
this long history of written maritime employment contracts,
courts have held that "a seaman is an employee-at-will
and may be discharged for any or no
reason." McPherson acknowledges this history but
claims that Congress changed this rule with a 1988 amendment
to 46 U.S.C. § 10601.
statute currently provides, §10601. Fishing
(a) Before proceeding on a voyage, the owner, charterer, or
managing operator, or a representative thereof, including the
master or individual in charge, of a fishing vessel, fish
processing vessel, or fish tender vessel shall make a fishing
agreement in writing with each seaman employed on board if
the vessel is-
(1) at least 20 gross tons as measured under section 14502 of
this title, or an alternate tonnage measured under section
14302 of this title as prescribed by the Secretary ...