Thank You Thursday: Jamie Leigh Jones and Al Franken

Via ThinkProgress:
In 2005, Jamie Leigh Jones was 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. Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) 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.” Check out his speech from the Senate floor yesterday:

The amendment passed by a 68-30 vote. Jones commented: “It means the world to me. It means that every tear shed to go public and repeat my story over and over again to make a difference for other women was worth it.”

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15 Comments

  1. Nurse_PhD
    Posted October 15, 2009 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    Who are the 30 who voted against this amendment? And WHY? Sheeezzus…

  2. Courtney
    Posted October 15, 2009 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    Here’s a video on the 30 who voted against the amendment: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xd8gVRMio_E

  3. gemski
    Posted October 15, 2009 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    Al Franken, you’re awesome.
    Jamie Leigh Jones, You’re awesome, and i applaud your strength a million times.
    30 Republican Senators… W.T.F….

  4. cattrack2
    Posted October 15, 2009 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    Jon Stewart riff’d on the 30 Senators to vote against it. I highly recommend it.
    I mean some bills are absolute no brainers, but apparently these 30 Senators have no brains.

  5. a.k.a.wandergrrl
    Posted October 15, 2009 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    What a clear and effective speech. It’s so refreshing to hear a politician speak with empathy, like a real person, like he gets it. Al Franken is different kind of politician. This is a terrific accomplishment.

  6. NapoleonInRags
    Posted October 15, 2009 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    This is great news. I’ve been a little down on the democrats of late and this, at least, serves as a reminder of why I donated to the Franken campaign.

  7. everybodyever
    Posted October 15, 2009 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

    Obviously, I support this bill and find it baffling that it’s even legal for arbitration clauses in employment contracts to apply to claims like these.
    I know that this post mentions the arbitration clause, but I’m troubled by the way this has been commented on here and elsewhere and wanted to clarify the situation. Many people seem to forget that the reason Jones was barred from litigating over her rape was that her employment contract stipulated that the claims be arbitrated instead. (Or maybe they haven’t forgotten, but a lot of reporting has seemed to characterize those who voted against this amendment as pro-rape, which is absurd.) That arbitration clause did not mean that Jones could not pursue and vindicate her claims in an official and legally binding venue. It simply meant that that venue would be arbitration, probably with a retired judge presiding rather than an actual federal judge. Obviously, her employer didn’t want the publicity that would come with litigation; it also probably wanted to wrap up the case quickly and cheaply, and arbitration is conducive to that. I’m assuming the 30 who voted against the amendment simply thought that Jones had sufficient access to justice via arbitration and didn’t think any amendment was necessary.
    As I said, I wholeheartedly support the Franken amendment. I understand the utility of arbitration clauses in general but believe they should be strictly limited — for federally contracted companies OR any others — to claims that don’t pertain to violence, threats of violence, civil rights violations or other violations of personal safety. I find it really troubling that they were not already, because arbitration histories are not transparent the way lawsuits are. And if issues like this can be effectively buried in arbitration, then how can job-seekers, employees and regulators know when a systemic problem of them has developed?
    I hope this new amendment and the hellish story behind it urges people to read their employment contracts carefully before signing them. Even with the new protections for those working for defense contractors, other employers presumably can stipulate arbitration of these kinds of claims (someone please correct me if I’m wrong on this). I’ve never read my employment contracts too closely, but now I know that a full arbitration clause — at least one lacking exceptions — would give me pause and make me wonder what the company was trying to hush up.

  8. Vulpes Foxnik
    Posted October 15, 2009 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

    John Cornyn, my saint of a senator from Texas, voted nay for this bill. This is utterly infuriating to me how anyone can think this is okay, and a company should be able to set human rights violating clauses in contracts.
    Those 30 people who voted against this bill are scum as well as those who thought such a clause was needed, and are just as guilty as the people who rapped the poor girl.

  9. allegra
    Posted October 15, 2009 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

    Um, it actually is kind of pro-rape, considering most of the justification for the private “arbitration” is the silencing of the rape victim. It’s nice they think they can “wrap up cases quickly and cheaply,” except I’m pretty sure the only thing that would cause a company to try to prevent the crime from happening again would in fact be if it was NOT cheap for them. Most companies (including my own) seem only to give a shit about sexual harassment out of fear of a lawsuit.
    And why the hell should military contractors be any different from regular U.S. corporations? I doubt any regular company can make it a condition of your employment that you have to sign a contract saying you’re required to keep any crime committed against you by your coworkers quiet and out of the court system.
    I’d be curious to know if this same bullshit “arbitration” process is required of other types of crime.

  10. georgiaD
    Posted October 16, 2009 at 12:08 am | Permalink

    I have been wondering for a while now why we have had to wait for Sen. Franken to do this? This case has been very public for a long time, an I recall Ms.Jones testifying at some point before the congress.
    I love Al Franken as a comedian, and I’m glad he is finally in the senate, but I am curious as to why he seems to be the first congressmen I have seen try to do something about it?
    I’m sure there is someone on this site who is more informed than I am about what has been going on behind the scenes.

  11. aleks
    Posted October 16, 2009 at 1:10 am | Permalink

    When we (the Minnesota DFL) nominated Franken I was disappointed because I thought he’d draw attention away from Sen. Coleman’s awfulness and lose. I was wrong about that and I was wrong about Franken, I’ve never seen someone grow into responsibility so quickly or so well.

  12. Emily
    Posted October 16, 2009 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    Things like this make me so incredibly happy that I voted for Franken.

  13. aleks
    Posted October 16, 2009 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    Their compassion is exhausted on Halliburton.

  14. Jjuliaava
    Posted October 20, 2009 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    If I wanted a husband, he would be exactly like a combo of Franken and Stuart!!!

  15. aleks
    Posted October 21, 2009 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    Any civil suit against the employer. The contract doesn’t specify rape.

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