Where HR, Iraq, and the Government Collide

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WARNING: There is an open secret among women bloggers that there are risks associated with blogging about rape. I know too many women who receive hate mail and serious threats when they articulate an anti-rape point of view. Sigh. Amazing.

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Have you read about the case of Jamie Leigh Jones who was allegedly raped by coworkers in Iraq and couldn’t seek help after the rape? Not only did her rape go unreported to investigative authorities, it turns out that the government may have turned a blind eye and declined to press criminal charges against the alleged rapists.

The aforementioned employer was a subsidiary of Halliburton.

Surprised, right?

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Did you also know that Jamie Leigh Jones can’t sue her former employer in civil court for negligence in the hiring process of her (alleged) rapists?

Woman Can’t Sue Halliburton Over Rape Because Of Cheney Policy

When Jones went to work for KBR in Texas, and later for its subsidiary, Overseas Administrative Services, she signed contracts containing mandatory binding arbitration clauses, which required her to give up her right to sue the companies and any right to a jury trial. Instead, the contracts forced Jones to press her case through private arbitration, which she did in 2006. In that forum, the company that allegedly wronged her pays the arbitrator who is hearing the case.

For that she can thank Dick Cheney.

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This is a horrific and disgusting story on so many levels. Before I hear from the anti-union HR professionals who love mandatory arbitration, I will concede that Jamie Leigh Jones did accept a job where she signed away her rights to a civil jury trial and agreed to resolve disputes with her employer through an arbitrator. I will also concede that she was working in a war zone (so to speak) and military campaigns are messy.

I just wonder when Jamie Lee Jones signed away her rights as an American citizen to be protected at work? I wonder when the employer had the right to participate as an active member in a criminal investigation? Where’s the impartiality? Where’s the accountability?

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I don’t know about you, but I would want the local government (a prosecutor, a grand jury, the local district attorney) to investigate allegations of rape at my office — not the Human Resources department, the Legal Department, and not the CEO.

Rape is not an “open door complaint” at an office. Not even Halliburton.

If the government (not some paralegal in the General Counsel’s office) determines that there is enough evidence to warrant an indictment against colleagues at my office (or YOUR office), I would want my coworkers tried by a jury of their peers to determine their guilt or innocence.

Furthermore, I would want my rights to a civil jury trial protected if I were raped at work and the government didn’t pursue criminal charges due to cronyism.

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At the end of the day, I wouldn’t want my employer investigated or held accountable by an employer-financed arbitration panel. I would want my employer held accountable by the rule of law.

Remember the rule of law? Remember the constitution? (It’s what we’re fighting for in Iraq and Afghanistan.) You are protected by the constitution in your cubicle and in your workplace. Don’t let people tell you otherwise.

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