How Women Won the KBR Rape Case
When Jones tried to bring her alleged attackers to justice and hold KBR responsible for placing her in danger, she was told that she had, in fact, signed away that right. She would have to air all complaints in arbitration with the company that she says locked her up, discouraged her from reporting her crime, and tampered with her rape kit. Whether Jones was assaulted or not, letting the very company she accused resolve the case seems problematic, to say the least.
The Fifth Circuit Appeals Court thought so too, finding that the binding arbitration clause did not apply to Jones’ sexual-assault charges; her contract covered work-related disputes but “stopped at her bedroom door.” In other words, rape is not a work-related injury. KBR appealed to the Supreme Court in the fall of 2009.
At the same time, KBR launched an aggressive smear campaign against Jones, calling her a liar and disputing the facts of the case. On their website, KBR offered its own account of what had happened. A press release claimed Jones was taken to a secure trailer where she was cared for after the incident—not locked in a shipping container as Jones alleged. In response to the campaign, Sen. Al Franken, who took up Jones’ cause in Congress, told Slate, “You know where a great place to try arguments is? In court. But they’ve spent five years fighting against her attempts to have her day there. It seems odd that they wouldn’t want to explain their side in the courtroom, since they’re willing to in the media.”
Before the Supreme Court was able to hear the KBR appeal, Franken succeeded in amending the 2009 Defense Appropriations bill to prohibit the Defense Department from hiring companies that use arbitration to resolve cases of sexual assault, battery, or racial discrimination. President Barack Obama signed the bill into law.