Justice for Jamie Leigh Jones
Those of you who, unlike me, were not under a rock this weekend already know the wonderful news: A federal judge has decided that Jamie Leigh Jones' assault-related claims against KBR cannot be arbitrated, despite her former employer's insistence that any and all claims against it stay out of the public court system. As confirmed by a rape kit, Jones was sexually assaulted while in Iraq working for KBR. Jones believes her perpetrators were coworkers and contends that KBR confined her to a large shipping container after she informed them of her assault, threatening to fire her if she were to leave Iraq for treatment.
KBR insists that the pre-dispute, binding mandatory arbitration clause Jones signed in her employment contract binds her to take this claim to arbitration, where "there is no public record nor transcript of the proceedings and Jones' claims would not have been heard before a judge and jury."
U.S. District Court Judge Keith Ellison knows better than that. According to ABC:
Ellison, however, wrote in his order Friday that Jones' claims of sexual assault, battery, rape, false imprisonment and others fall beyond the scope of her employment contract.
"The Court does not believe that Plaintiff's bedroom should be considered the workplace, even though her housing was provided by her employer," Ellison wrote.
Ellison did, however, rule that a sexual harassment claim that Jones included in her case against her supervisor in Texas would have to be decided in arbitration.
Jones and her attorney have conceded to take other claims against KBR to arbitration, but they have a right to access the civil justice system for her assault claims. This notable civil justice victory comes after months of media coverage, two congressional hearings, and an outcry by individuals who didn't know corporations could do this.
I'm so glad that the judge decided this issue in accordance with principles of fairness and equity. However, wouldn't it be great if there were a law that expedited the process of obtaining access to the civil justice system? A law that prevented corporations from getting you to sign away your right to take critical claims like Jones' to court, rather than to arbtiration? Hmmm, if only...