I’m sure many of you remember the saga of Jamie Leigh Jones and Halliburton from earlier this fall. In 2005, Jamie Leigh Jones was viciously gang-raped by her co-workers while she was working for Halliburton/KBR in Baghdad. Jones was prevented from bringing charges in court against KBR because her employment contract stipulated that sexual assault allegations would only be heard in private arbitration. In October, Al Franken proposed an amendment to the 2010 Defense Appropriations bill that would withhold defense contracts from companies like KBR “if they restrict their employees from taking workplace sexual assault, battery and discrimination cases to court” (as Halliburton did with Jones). The amendment passed by a 68-30 vote.
But now, Halliburton/KBR are continuing to attempt to prevent Jones from having her case tried in civil court. After last September, when the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Jones, KBR has been petitioning the Supreme Court to reverse the ruling. And – get this – they’re going after her personal integrity in an attempt to distract from the unforgivableness of their own actions.
Stephanie Mencimer from Mother Jones reports, “Among its many arguments in favor of a high court hearing: that Jones is a relentless self-promoter who has ‘sensationalized her allegations against the KBR Defendants in the media, before the courts, and before Congress.’”
KBR is also suggesting 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.’”
Factually and legally untenable? Or just too horrible for Halliburton to admit? Let’s go over Jones’ case again. The attack took place just four days after her arrival in Iraq. After taking a few sips of her drink, Jones later woke up in the barracks, “naked” and “severely beaten.” Her “breasts were so badly mauled that she is permanently disfigured.” Jones reported that examinations after the assault revealed that she had been raped both vaginally and anally, but that the rape kit disappeared after it was handed over to KBR security officers.
In an apparent attempt to cover up the attack, Halliburton/KBR 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 two years later, the DOJ was still resisting bringing criminal charges, and no federal agency was investigating the case.
Mencimer guesses that Halliburton/KBR is “miffed” about the Franken Amendment, which it credits Jones with getting passed. And certainly, it does seem fishy that a “wronged” company would want these proceedings to go ahead under wraps – wouldn’t they want to be publicly vindicated? Could KBR be worried that more women are going to get in line to sue them, now that Jones has made it easier for them? Mencimer thinks so, and it certainly seems like a plausible suggestion. But one thing is for sure: Halliburton/KBR is not going to come out of this struggle with a clean public image – and they certainly don’t deserve to.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.