Thursday, October 8, 2009

This Week In Rape - Mandatory Binding Arbitration Edition

I didn't expect Al Franken to do much in the Senate. He's a comedian, right? But he's done something great introducing an amendment to the 2010 Defense Appropriations bill, which seems to be a direct response to the Jamie Leigh Jones case.

In case you haven't heard of it, hers is a case to watch. Long story short: Ms. Jones was working in Iraq as a contractor for Halliburton subsidiary KBR, where her employers refused to house her separately from her male co-workers, in spite of repeated complaints that the men were sexually harassing her. The men drugged her and gang raped her. When she complained, she was held by KBR in a shipping container for over 24 hours without food, water, or a bed, and her employers told her that if she left Iraq for medical treatment, she'd be fired.

But that was only the beginning of her nightmare. After returning stateside, she decided to pursue legal action, and KBR claimed that she couldn't, that her contract stated that all disputes with her employer must be resolved by mandatory binding arbitration.

If you're not familiar with it, imagine that instead of going to court you go see an extralegal judge that is selected and paid for by the opposition. As you can imagine, the judge sides with corporations as often as 95% of the time, according to a study done by consumer watchdog group Public Citizen. And guess what! You've probably got a mandatory binding arbitration clause in some of the contracts in your life. Use a cell phone?

Just the other week Ms. Jones won the right to her day in court.

And now, Al Franken has introduced an amendment stating that no defense contracts can be awarded to companies that "restrict their employees from taking workplace sexual assault, battery and discrimination cases to court."

This is a perfect example of why capitalism is screaming out for regulation to protect the rest of us. They should rename the amendment the "I can't believe we actually have to make a rule for this" amendment.

Let's hope it passes.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am almost too enraged to comment on this. But thank goodness for comedian-turned-politicians