Rape Case Still Not Before Jury
She just wanted her day in court.
Instead, Jamie Leigh Jones Daigle has been faced with the drawn out frustration of delayed and denied justice in her rape lawsuit against KBR/Halliburton, her employer at the time she was working in Iraq.
Jamie Leigh Jones was 19 when she began working as an administrative assistant at the Houston office of Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR), a subsidiary of Halliburton, the world’s largest defense contractor.
When another job opened up overseas, Jones jumped at the change to make some extra money.
She arrived in Iraq on July 24, 2005.
Four days later, she says she was drugged then gang raped in the co-ed barracks of Halliburton by employed firefighters. She woke up the next morning bruised and bloody, but her ordeal wasn’t over.
The company allegedly put her in a guarded trailer and told her to “get over it”.
Jones sued KBR/Halliburton. Soon she found her employment contract’s mandatory arbitration clause actually covered violent assaults.
Taking that issue to court, Texas Judge Keith Ellison decided some issues should go before an arbitration panel to decide their merits, but other issues, namely rape, false imprisonment and negligent retention of employees who alleged raped Jamie, should go before a jury.
Halliburton appealed and that's where it stands today. Not one bit of discovery has been gathered in the case.
The Problem With Arbitration
Houston attorney, Todd Kelly, who represents Jones (who has since married) Daigle, says the arbitration process is flawed.
Not only is it binding and not appealable, but arbitrators know if they want to work again, they must rule in favor of the corporation, not the plaintiff.
“In picking an arbitrator I have to ask her to end her career. That’s what she will have to do to rule in favor of Jamie,” he says.
And Kelly believes arbitration and the secrecy it specifies, allowed KBR/Halliburton to sweep under the rug the very climate in Iraq into which Jamie unknowingly landed in 2005.
“Secrecy prevents evil acts or corporate wrong-doing from being known to the public. Justice in secret can never be justice,” he says to IB News.
Kelly says he recently heard from newly minted democratic Senator Al Franken’s (D-MN) office. They wanted to propose an amendment to a defense spending bill that prohibits, “the Defense Department from contracting with companies that require employees to resolve sexual assault allegations and other claims through arbitration.”
Earlier this month, the amendment passed the Senate 68-30, garnering bi-partisan support from 10 Republicans, including every female member of the GOP.
“The constitution gives everybody the right to due process of law,” Franken said during a debate on the amendment.
“And today, defense contractors are using fine print in their contracts to deny women like Jamie Leigh Jones their day in court…. The victims of rape and discrimination deserve their day in court [and] Congress plainly has the constitutional power to make that happen.”
Jones Daigle was in at the Senate when the amendment was approved.
She says the amendment’s passage “means the world to me. It means that every tear shed to go public and repeat my story over and over again to make a difference for other women was worth it.”
She has formed the Jamie Leigh Foundation to help other women assaulted overseas by American employees.
Franken says arbitration is useful when two corporations want to hammer out the price of goods but arbitration, “doesn’t establish important precedent that can be used in later causes. Many of our nation’s most cherished civil rights were established by individuals bringing claims in court, the court ruling in their favor, and then extending the protection of those right to anyone in a similar situation.”
KBR/Halliburton was asked by IB News to what extend mandatory arbitration is part of employee contracts. An answer is pending.
Ironically, unless the amendment becomes retroactive, it will likely not apply to Jamie Leigh Daigle’s case.
Kelly says in the last week he’s heard from two other women who claim sexual assault at the hands of KBR/Halliburton employees.
“They’ve been re-victimized by arbitration” he says. #