In April 2008, I attended the Congressional Victim’s Rights Awards Caucus Ceremony in Washington, D.C.  One of my clients and good friends, Laurie Dishman, was being honored by the Caucus.  Ms. Dishman had been raped on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship.  The cruise line mistreated her following the shipboard crime. 

Ms. Dishman became a zealous advocate for rape victims after experiencing first-hand how the cruise line treated her and tried to cover the crime up. She received an award from her Congresswoman, the Honorable Doris Matsui of Sacramento California.  The photo to the the left is of Congresswoman Matsui, Ms. Dishman, and her dad Bill Dishman. 

But this article is not about Ms. Dishman, who is one of the most amazing women in the world.  I will write about Ms. Dishman’s trials & tribulations and her resounding victories in later blogs.  This is about another brave young woman, Jamie Leigh Jones.   

At the awards ceremony, Ms. Dishman and I met Ms. Jones.  Ms. Jones was also being honored by her Congressman, the Honorable Ted Poe of the 2nd Congressional District in Texas (Houston, Beaumont).  Congressman Poe has attended some of the hearings in Washington over the years regarding the problem with crimes on cruise ships.  He has been a consistent supporter of crime victims, including rape victims on cruise ships.

Ms. Jones attended the awards ceremony with her fiance, a member of the U.S. Navy, and her family. 

While receiving her award, Ms. Jones briefly explained what happened to her.  While working in Iraq for Halliburton/KBR, a military contractor, her co-employees drugged and then gang raped her. She was also locked in a container and told not to report the crime.

When she filed suit to hold the rapists and Halliburton responsible for the horrific crime, her employer moved to dismiss her lawsuit and send her to what is called "arbitration."  Halliburton had inserted language into her employment agreement which tried to take away her right to a trial by jury.  Halliburton wanted her case to be decided by a single "arbitrator", picked of course by Halliburton (and undoubtedly a man), in a confidential setting.  She also had no right to appeal the arbitrator’s decision.

I was dumbstruck to think that a rape victim could lose all of her legal rights and be subject to a "kangaroo court" where the same company who hired her rapists would also hire the arbitrator who would decide her case.  It seemed like being raped again.  

Halliburton’s lawyers insisted on enforcing the "arbitration" scheme they prepared to rig the legal proceedings in favor of the corporation. The matter went on appeal to the Court of Appeal for the Fifth Circuit. 

The Court of Appeal recently ruled in favor of Ms. Jones.  The Court held that her claims for assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent hiring, retention, and supervision, and false imprisonment are not subject to arbitration.  The Court’s opinion is available online to review.          

The magazine Mother Jones covered Ms. Jones’ story in an article entitled "Court Okays Halliburton Rape Trial."  It is worth a read.

There are corporations in the U.S., including cruise lines, who have modeled themselves on the Halliburton approach of let’s-screw-our-employees-with-an-arbitration-agreement. Like Halliburton’s lawyers, the cruise lines’ lawyers have been plotting to deprive their employees of their rights. Some cruise lines are worse than others.  In subsequent blogs, I will discuss how some particularly bad cruise lines are scheming to strip their injured crew members – including rape victims – of their right to jury trials and U.S. maritime rights which have existed for 200 years.  

The Fifth Circuit’s decision tells employers that you can’t take away rights via arbitration when your employees drug, brutalize, and falsely imprison a young woman.  

The Court saw through Halliburton’s arbitration scheme, and its secret kangaroo court. 

Now Ms. Jones can now seek justice in a court of law in front of a jury of her peers, rather than one of Halliburton’s business partners. 


Photo Credits

Photos of Laurie Dishman – International Cruise Victims organization

Photo of Ms. Jamie Leigh Jones – ABC News 

Photos of Ms. Jones and Congressman Ted Poe –  Website of Honorable Ted Poe, 2nd Congressional District of Texas