KBR, a company that has been sued repeatedly for alleged sexual assaults and harassment of female employees, has been voted one of the best companies for women to work for by a magazine aimed at female engineers.
Woman Engineer named the Houston-based contracting company number 46 in the 2011 version of the magazine's annual list of the top 50 best workplaces. Winners were chosen by readers who responded to a survey, and the magazine will publish the full list later this month.
KBR has extensive contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Attorney Todd Kelly, who has so far represented five former KBR employees who have alleged sexual assault or harassment, told ABC News that in all about 40 women have contacted his office about alleged incidents that occurred while they were working overseas for KBR or at one of its facilities.
Kelly said he didn't think the women he's interviewed or represented would be pleased with Woman Engineer's honor. "The women that I've spoken with personally, who have talked about just rampant misconduct, sexual and otherwise, by KBR management, I don't think would agree with that distinction," said Kelly. "I find it extremely interesting that the timing of that particular distinction comes out just a couple of months before the Jamie Jones trial is about to start."
Jamie Leigh Jones was working her fourth day on the job in Baghdad in 2005 when she says she was drugged and gang-raped by seven U.S. contractors and held captive by two KBR guards in a shipping container. Like other alleged victims, Jones had signed a contract requiring her to deal with sexual assault allegations through arbitration. But in September 2009 a federal appeals court ruled that the case could go to court instead of arbitration. Jones's lawsuit won't go to trial till June, but has already led to the passage of the Franken Amendment, which prohibits contractors from using arbitration as opposed to the courts against ex-employees claiming sexual assault.
Other victims include Tracy Barker, who won a $3 million judgment in arbitration against KBR over a 2005 sexual assault. KBR initially challenged the award, saying the rape claim had never been confirmed. "I was raped," Barker responded. "KBR knows that and they're wrong about that."
Another alleged victim, Anna Mayo, was working in KBR's facility in Balad, Iraq in November 2009 when she says she was assaulted by an unnamed rapist who worked for KBR. She charged that she was choked unconscious with a rope, beaten and raped. KBR filed a motion to dismiss, saying that Ms. Mayo should get worker's compensation but not anything else. Mayo's case is still pending.
The editor of Woman Engineer, Jim Schneider, told ABC News that the rankings in its annual list were decided by readers. The magazine sent out a survey to about 1,000 readers that asked: "What companies and government agencies would you like to work for or believe are progressive in recruiting, hiring, and promoting women engineers?" They ask respondents to rate their top three choices and then each is weighted accordingly to complete the rankings.
KBR did not immediately respond to an ABC News request for comment. In a press release issued in response to Woman Engineer's rankings, the company said, "KBR is proud of its diverse workforce ... Their efforts do not go unnoticed and help us recognize the elements that will help us to continue to thrive in the future."