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Franken Amendment Prohibits Mandatory Arbitration By Defense Contractors

Posted by Jane Akre
Wednesday, October 21, 2009 2:53 PM EST
Category: In The Workplace
Tags: Rape, Halliburton, KBR, Defense Contractors, Jamie Leigh Jones Daigle, Franken, Mandatory Arbitration

Sen. Al Franken has made an amendment to the defense bill for last year that prohibits defense contractors from relying on mandatory arbitration.

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IMAGE SOURCE: Jamie Leigh Jones Daigle/ The Jamie Leigh Foundation

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. #


2 Comments

Posted by Jane Akre
Thursday, October 22, 2009 3:53 PM EST

KBR responds to IB News -

This answers the question posed above, whether employees of the company must sign contracts that contain mandatory arbitration clauses.

*Note - Heather Browne, KBR Director of Communications adds that since the Jamie Leigh Jones story, KBR has separated from Halliburton and is now its own separate company, KBR, Inc.

The Jones lawsuit names both companies as they had not separated at that time.

KBR Statement:

As a matter of standard business practice, KBR requires all employees to sign an arbitration agreement as part of the employment contract.

The arbitration process is a method for resolving employee disputes quickly and efficiently, without the delays and expense often associated with litigation. KBR remains committed to ensuring this process is fair.

Many companies have dispute resolution programs as part of the arbitration process, which are designed to address employee complaints timely and efficiently, without the delays and expense often associated with litigation. KBR is no exception. Under KBR’s dispute resolution program, 95% of all employee complaints are resolved promptly to the employees’ satisfaction and at no cost to the employee.

Anonymous User
Posted by miron reynolds
Thursday, October 29, 2009 10:41 PM EST

arbitration is a kangeroo court.I went to arbitration with KBR, the arbitator Susan Perin of Houston Texas flat out lied in her ruling,went against evidence on the record,which would have caused her to come to a different conclusion. KBR was represented by the giant Vinson and Elkins from whom Susan Perin had made a lot of money. Arbitrators can lie because they know that the outcome is final and bnding and that courts will not usually overturn their decissions and most attorneys will not go after ten on ny grounds.

Comments for this article are closed.

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