In 2005, Jamie Leigh Jones was gang-raped by her co-workers while she was working for Halliburton/KBR in Baghdad. The attack occurred while she was out with a “small group of Halliburton firefighters,” just four days after her arrival in Iraq. After taking a few sips of her drink, she later woke up in the barracks, “naked” and “severely beaten.” Her “breasts were so badly mauled that she is permanently disfigured.”
In an apparent attempt to cover up the incident, the company then put her in a shipping container for at least 24 hours without food, water, or a bed, and “warned her that if she left Iraq for medical treatment, she’d be out of a job.” Even more insultingly, the DOJ resisted bringing any criminal charges in the matter.
Jones tried to sue the company for failing to protect her, but KBR argued that Jones’ employment contract — created for the company under the tenure of then-CEO Dick Cheney — warranted her claims being heard in private arbitration, without jury, judge, public record, or transcript of the proceedings. Basically, KBR argued that Jones’ brutal rape was a workplace injury — nothing more. But in September, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Jones. “Jones’ allegations do not ‘touch matters’ related to her employment, let alone have a ‘significant relationship’ to her employment contract,” wrote the court.
KBR is now petitioning the Supreme Court to reverse the ruling. The contractor is personally going after Jones’ integrity to argue that she shouldn’t have a fair and open hearing. Stephanie Mencimer from Mother Jones reports:
On Jan. 19, it petitioned the Supreme Court to overturn the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals decision allowing Jones to press her case in a civil court rather than in arbitration. Among its many arguments in favor of a high court hearing: that Jones is a relentless self-promoter who has “sensationalize[d] her allegations against the KBR Defendants in the media, before the courts, and before Congress.” … KBR also suggests that much of Jones’ story is fabricated. The company says in a footnote, “Many, if not all, of her allegations against the KBR Defenandants are demonstrably false. The KBR Defendants intend to vigorously contest Jones’s allegations and show that her claims against the KBR Defendants are factually and legally untenable.”
The Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2010 signed into law by President Obama in December contained an amendment by Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) — inspired by Jones’ story — that prohibits defense contractors from restricting their employees’ abilities to take workplace discrimination, battery, and sexual assault cases to court. Mencimer notes that in its petition, KBR is “clearly miffed about the Franken Amendment, which it credits Jones with getting passed.”