TorteDeForm

Kia Franklin

Article in MoJo

No Justice for Jamie Jones, by Stephanie Mencimer, TortDeform Contributor and journalist for Mother Jones. Her article does something really important--it makes the connection between Jamie Jones' Camp Hope horror and resultant legal battles, and other astounding abuses of employees and their legal rights.

Mencimer illustrates that, like Ms. Jones' claim, Halliburton and its subsidiaries (one of which is Jones' former employer, KBR) have made profits off of funneling workers' discrimination, workers' comp, and other important employment claims into a biased arbitration system where even if they lose, they pay injured employees less and avoid the public scrutiny that comes with publicized jury trials. She also explains the tactics employers use to portray this arbitration process as a desirable alternative to the public courts, even though ultimately employees are forced to "agree" or let the door knob hit 'em. This portrayal of a quick and efficient way to "resolve" disputes neglects to mention that the "resolution" rarely feels like one for the injured employee, as evidence shows.

Mencimer's article essentially shows that while Jamie Jones' case is an extreme and tragic one, one which "shocks the conscience" if you will, there are many other horrible cases where employees and their legal rights are being exploited, abused, and destroyed. Believe me, if I've never meant it before, I mean it now: this article is worth the read. Below is a small exerpt (my emphasis added):

One day, Halliburton sent all its employees a brochure explaining that the company was implementing a new dispute resolution system. The company sold the new program as an employee perk that would create an "open door" policy for bringing grievances to management and as a forum for resolving disputes without expensive and lengthy litigation. In practice, it meant that anyone who had a legitimate civil-rights or personal-injury claim signed away his or her constitutional right to a jury trial. Anyone who showed up for work after getting the brochure was considered to have agreed to give up his or her rights, regardless of whether the employees had actually read it. In 2001, the conservative and pro-business Texas Supreme Court overturned two lower courts to declare that this move was legal.

Dallas lawyer John Wall has something of a franchise suing Halliburton on behalf of employees in civil-rights and other workplace cases. He says there hasn't been a year since 1986 that he hasn't had at least one case against Halliburton. He's represented dozens of the company's employees and won numerous settlements and jury trials in civil lawsuits against the company. The reason, he says, is that Halliburton targets "the old, the injured, and the ill" when it makes layoff decisions, and it has a history of firing people for making workers compensation claims. Under the arbitration process, he says, Halliburton has fared much better, winning many more cases. When it loses, he says, the company pays significantly lower damages, which he says rarely exceed $50,000.

...In state courts, according to the BJS, 43 percent of the awards in employment- discrimination trials were more than $250,000, and 16 percent were above a million dollars. The median award in state court for a discrimination case was $218,000 in 2001, the most recent year for which data is available. It's not too hard to see why Halliburton and KBR want to keep Jaime Leigh Jones in arbitration. If the allegations she has made are true, and her lawyers can prove it, her case could be worth many millions of dollars in a jury trial. It could also be both expensive and embarrassing, two things that Cheney clearly wanted to avoid a decade ago when he stacked the deck against his company's employees.

I'd love to hear folks' thoughts on the article.

Kia Franklin: Author Bio | Other Posts
Posted at 12:47 PM, Dec 21, 2007 in
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Comments

Kia: Lawyer outrage over crime arises only when an alleged defendant has deep pockets. I hear nothing from the criminal lover lawyer about the 23 million FBI Index felonies a year, with their 95% immunity, granted by the criminal lover lawyer on the bench. Minority victims have triple the victimization rates. Not a word here from the criminal lover lawyer.

Why does the criminal lover lawyer, like Scalia, seek to empty the prisons of vicious thugs? Lawyers need the jobs. Drops in crime rates threaten these jobs.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | December 22, 2007 9:00 AM

It is an excellent article, but I'm no longer sure how to get people to wake up to this issue. We're hearing of such abuses almost daily now (I've subscribed to all items in Google News for "arbitration fairness", and I get something almost daily.

People read these articles, and then it's like they feel so helpless about their lives anyway, that articles such as this become nothing more than one more log on the pile of the Big Guy screwing the little guy.

Somewhat related is this article: http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_7802789

As for the incident, I was astonished, furious that this young woman would be put through such criminal activity without any penalties, and then when she took the only course she had, she has to go through the arbitration kangaroo court. At a minimum, wouldn't you think the PR group at KBR would be smart enough to see how this could backfire on the company?

I once worked for Halliburton, after they bought out a small graphics firm I worked at in Seattle. I can't even begin to describe the callous, uncaring environment that this corporation has fostered. The act astonishes me, but not that it was Halliburton, or KBR.

What this demonstrates more than a callousness, is a real stupidity in leadership in these companies. They are so fixated on the dollars per quarter, they don't realize that they are creating a slow moving beast that will, one day, revolt against them.

Take away our courts and what do a desperate people have left?

Posted by: Shelley | December 25, 2007 2:22 PM