A federal judge has ruled that the woman who says she was raped by co-workers while employed by a contractor in Iraq can take her claims to trial. Jamie Leigh Jones filed a federal lawsuit last year, alleging she was attacked in 2005 while working for a Halliburton Co. subsidiary at Camp Hope, Baghdad. Her lawsuit contends that, after she endured harassment from some of the men where she lived in coed barracks, she was drugged and raped by firefighters employed by Halliburton and KBR. Ms. Jones says a KBR representative actually imprisoned her in a shipping container for a day so she wouldn’t report the assault. KBR and other subsidiaries that have been sued have denied Ms. Jones’ allegations but I predict they will have a most difficult time defending this case.
Halliburton’s lawyers had argued that the employment agreement Ms. Jones signed required any claims made by an employee against the company that in any way touch on his or her employment to be settled through arbitration. If that position had prevailed, a third party would resolve the case through a private hearing process. The decision by U.S. District Judge Keith P. Ellison says the court will not compel the plaintiff to go to arbitration for her claims related to being assaulted. However, those claims cannot be pursued until other workplace-related claims are arbitrated.
As you will recall, Ms. Jones detailed her allegations to a Congressional subcommittee in December. Several members of Congress have criticized the Justice, State and Defense departments for how her case was handled. Congress has pressured the Bush Administration to force U.S. contractors in Iraq to offer better protection for their employees from crimes. But so long as Vice-President Cheney is in power, you can rest assured that nothing that would “hurt” Halliburton will take place. A Washington-based lawyer, Stephanie Morris, represents Ms. Jones in her case and she has done a great job in avoiding arbitration for her client. A court and jury should hear this case and hopefully the media will give the trial the attention it deserves.
Source: Associated Press
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