The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled this week that former military contractor Jamie Leigh Jones’ 2005 federal lawsuit filed against the Halliburton Corporation and its affiliated subsidiaries can be tried in court rather than undergoing binding arbitration. The Court decided whether Jones’ case, which rested on allegations that she was drugged and raped by Halliburton employees in the barracks while stationed as a clerical worker in Baghdad, was directly related to her employment. According to Mother Jones, Jones’ employment contract with Halliburton required mandatory binding arbitration for lawsuits related to her employment.
Jones’ suit also alleges that she was held in a “prison-like container” guarded by an armed guard for several hours after she reported the alleged assault, according to the Associated Press.
Judge Rhesa Hawkins Barksdale wrote in the Fifth Circuit’s opinion (see PDF) that “Halliburton/KBR essentially asks this court to read the arbitration provision so broadly as to encompass any claim related to Jones’ employer, or any incident that happened during her employment, but that is not the language of the contract. We do not hold that, as a matter of law, sexual-assault allegations can never ‘relate to’ someone’s employment. For this action, however, Jones’ allegations do not ‘touch matters’ related to her employment, let alone have a ‘significant relationship’ to her employment contract.” Furthermore, she wrote “just as we held that the incident was not ‘related to’ her employment for purposes of arbitration because she lived in employer-provided housing, we also hold that this fact does not establish the incident occurred ‘in or about the workplace’.”
Jones said in an e-mail to the Associated Press, “This is wonderful news, not only for me but for those who have been bound into mandatory arbitrations.”