Wednesday, October 07, 2009

High Five: Al Franken Stands Up For Justice And A Rape Victim

Al Franken, The Democratic senator from Minnesota/ACORN gets a high five from me today.

Yes, Al Franken.

He won an important victory today.

Back in 2005, 19-year-old Jamie Leigh Jones was a military wife working in Iraq as a civilian employee for Halliburton/KBR. She was quartered in a barracks in Camp Hope that was almost entirely all male and was subjected to harassment, which she reported to her supervisor. KBR did nothing about it , and shortly afterwards she was drugged and gang raped by an indeterminate number of her fellow male employees.

The rape was a particularly brutal one, leaving her with deep bruises, torn genital tissue and ruptured breast implants, so there no question about what happened.

Unfortunately, her nightmare was just beginning.

KBR essentially incarcerated her under guard in a shipping container with a bed and warned her that if she left Iraq for medical treatment, she'd be out of a job. Eventually, she managed to borrow a cell phone from a sympathetic guard and phoned her father, who got Republican Congressman Ted Poe involved. He contacted the State Department and got Army investigators to free her. The Army investigators also took a rape kit and found numerous DNA samples, but the kit mysteriously disappeared when the Army turned it over to KBR. So her attackers will likely never face justice.

Even worse, KBR tried to enforce the arbitration clause in her contract to stop her from suing the company for damages.

Jones eventually won that battle, with a Texas court ruling that the arbitration clause she signed didn't protect KBR from suits arising from assault and battery or their failure to provide a safe work environment.

She deserves a great deal of credit for refusing to keep silent and heroically making this public.

And Senator Franken?

His victory was to attach 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.”

His amendment passed by a 68-30 vote, and I'm saddened to see that a number of Senators who are ordinarily on the right side of issues like Jeff Sessions, Mike Enzi and John Cornyn voted against it on the grounds that it constituted, in Session's words, “a political attack directed at Halliburton.”

They were wrong, and in this case, Senator Franken was right. Companies that do business with the US government should be held to a higher standard. And perhaps this will provide an incentive for companies with government defense contracts to be more concerned about their employee's safety.

That, and the huge judgment Jamie Leigh Jones will undoubtedly get out of KBR.

1 comment:

p00pchUte! said...

those sons of bitches at KBR suck. I put in a claim with them (worked for them) and they took 8 months to pay out on it... 8 months@