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Rape Claim Not Subject to Contractual Arbitration

December 18, 2009
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Jamie Leigh Jones worked for defense contractor Halliburton Co. as an administrative assistant in its Houston office. In July 2005, she agreed to work in Baghdad, Iraq, for a Halliburton subsidiary. Before starting her assignment, Jones signed an agreement to arbitrate “any and all claims that you might have against an Employer related to your employment, including your termination, and any and all personal injury claim(s) arising in the workplace.”

While working in Baghdad, Jones was allegedly beaten and raped in her room by several Halliburton employees and was seriously injured. After she reported the rape to company officials, Jones said she was questioned for several hours in a cargo container under armed guard and told by supervisors to “get over it.”

Jones filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas in May 2007, alleging several tort claims, as well as breach of contract and employment discrimination and harassment. Halliburton petitioned the district court to compel arbitration of all her claims.

The district court denied Halliburton’s motion to compel arbitration only with respect to Jones’ tort claims, but ordered that the claims for discrimination, breach of contract and fraud go to arbitration. Halliburton appealed the district court’s decision to deny arbitration of the tort-related claims.

On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit affirmed, and agreed with the district court’s ruling to deny arbitration of Jones’ tort claims. An agreement to arbitrate claims “related to her employment” stopped “at Jones’ bedroom door” because the assault and rape that occurred in Baghdad fell outside of her employment contract. Jones v. Halliburton Co. d/b/a KBR Kellogg Brown & Root, 5th Cir., No. 08-20380 (9/15/09).

    Impact: While arbitration is often viewed as a cost-effective alternative to litigation, employers are advised that certain claims may not be subject to mandatory arbitration.

Workforce Management, December 14, 2009, p. 8 -- Subscribe Now!

The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

Recent Articles by James E. Hall, Mark T. Kobata and Marty Denis

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