Our modern society takes sexual harassment in the workplace very seriously. As maritime professionals, most mariners understand the importance of upholding integrity and respect when it comes to interacting with their co-workers. Sexual assault and harassment sometimes still occurs however, which has led to an increase in government and employer efforts to encourage reporting of conduct that is perceived as inappropriate. While these efforts on the one hand serve the public interest in deterring unwanted interactions, they can also lead to reports, accusations, and governmental action against mariners based upon a one-sided view of the facts that could be rationally explained by an objective analysis of the situation. These enforcement situations often threaten mariners’ careers, reputations, and livelihoods.  The U.S. Congress passed new laws in December of 2022 that have made a substantial impact on reporting requirements and what conduct is considered sexual assault and sexual harassment.  Violations of these federal laws may result in suspension or revocation of the mariner’s credential – the license required for maritime employment. In such challenging times, knowing how to navigate U.S. Coast Guard Suspension and Revocation Proceedings (“S&R”) within the maritime workplace becomes crucial for protecting their legal rights and interests.

Understanding the Process

Coast Guard S&R Proceedings involve serious consequences that can impact a mariner’s career and future prospects. When facing allegations of sexual assault or harassment, it’s crucial to understand the legal process and the rights afforded to individuals under investigation. The process typically begins with an investigation conducted by the Coast Guard to gather evidence and determine the validity of the allegations. During this phase, the Coast Guard may or may not choose to interview the suspected mariner.  However, mariners have the right to legal representation to ensure their rights are protected and to advocate on their behalf.  It is especially important to obtain legal counsel as soon as the mariner suspects he or she is under investigation – before speaking with the Coast Guard investigators. 

Once the Coast Guard believes it has enough evidence of a violation, it can then proceed in filing a complaint.  The complaint is a legal document that contains allegations that a mariner has violated the law.  The complaint is not against the individual but the individual’s merchant mariner credential.  Failing to timely respond, in writing, to the complaint may have serious consequences, such as losing your right to fight back against the allegations.

Protecting Your Rights

Having experienced legal counsel who understands the intricacies of Coast Guard regulations and procedures can make a significant difference in the outcome of S&R Proceedings – whether or not you will be able to continue working under your credential. A knowledgeable attorney can help a mariner navigate the investigation process, gather evidence to support his/her defense, and advocate for fair treatment throughout the proceedings.

Furthermore, legal representation can assist a mariner in understanding his/her rights, including the right to remain silent and the right to due process. By working with skilled attorneys who are experienced in maritime law, a mariner can mitigate the potential consequences of allegations and safeguard his/her careers.

Building a Strong Defense

In S&R Proceedings, building a strong defense is paramount to achieving a favorable outcome. This may involve challenging the evidence presented by the Coast Guard, conducting independent investigations, and presenting compelling arguments to support the mariner’s case. Experienced legal counsel can help a mariner develop a comprehensive defense strategy tailored to his/her specific circumstances. Whether through negotiation, mediation, or representation in administrative hearings, maritime attorneys can advocate for the best possible resolution on behalf of their clients.

Moving Forward

While facing Coast Guard allegations of sexual assault or harassment from the Coast Guard can be daunting, a mariner do not have to navigate the process alone. The attorneys at Cooper & Bilbrey, P.C. have over 60 years of combined experience in maritime law and use that experience to protect mariners and safeguard their rights, their reputations, and their careers. Ultimately, with the Cooper & Bilbrey, P.C. legal team by their side, a mariner can navigate S&R Proceedings with confidence and resilience, increasing the likelihood of a fair and just resolution to the allegations he/she faces. 

If you suspect you are under Coast Guard investigation or have been served with a complaint in the Coast Guard S&R Proceeding, don’t wait!  Give us a call today!


Areas of Practice:

Admiralty and Maritime Law, U.S. Coast Guard Suspension & Revocation Proceedings, Personal Injury, Wrongful Death, Construction Law, Business Law, and other Civil Matters

Bar Admissions:

South Carolina 2018

U.S. District Court, District of South Carolina 2019

U.S. Court of Federal Claims 2019


Charleston School of Law, Charleston, South Carolina, J.D. Cum Laude, 2018

Tennessee Technological University, Cookeville, TN, B.S. Business Administration, 2010

Professional Associations and Memberships:

Charleston County Bar Association

South Carolina Bar Association

American Association for Justice

South Carolina Association for Justice

Southeastern Admiralty Law Institute (SEALI), Port Director 2021-2024

Propeller Club of Charleston

Captain’s License – MMC with 100 Ton and Towing Endorsements

Charleston County Rescue Squad


Recent Maritime Law Developments: U.S. Supreme Court and the First, Second, Third, and Fourth Circuits, SEALI Annual Seminar (2020)