Halliburton Rape Claim Goes to Court

Judge orders woman can bring case to court, not be compelled into arbitration.

ByABC News
May 10, 2008, 5:57 PM

May 12, 2008— -- A Houston woman who says she was gang-raped by co-workers at a Halliburton/KBR camp in Baghdad won a major court battle last week when a Texas judge ordered that she can bring her case to court instead of forcing her into secretive arbitration proceedings with Halliburton and KBR.

"We are ecstatic that [District Judge Keith Ellison] had the courage to uphold justice in this case," Jamie Leigh Jones' attorney Todd Kelly said after the decision.

KBR said late Monday that they may appeal the judge's decision. "KBR will review the judge's opinion and will continue to vigorously defend itself which may include an appeal," the company said in a statement to ABCNews.com.

Jones says that after she was raped by multiple men at a KBR camp in the Green Zone, the company put her under guard in a shipping container with a bed and warned her that if she left Iraq for medical treatment, she'd be out of a job.

Jones told ABCNews.com that she hopes other sexual abuse claims will also now be able to go before a jury rather than into arbitration. "I am hopeful that the judge's decision will open the door for other victims to seek justice against military contractors who fail to protect their employees from sexual abuse," Jones told ABCNews.com.

Jones returned from Iraq following her alleged rape in 2005. She was the subject of an exclusive ABC News report in December, which led to congressional hearings.

After months of waiting for criminal charges to be filed, Jones decided to file suit against Halliburton and KBR.

KBR had moved for Jones' claim to be heard in private arbitration, instead of a public courtroom, as provided under the terms of her original employment contract.

Ellison, however, wrote in his order Friday that Jones' claims of sexual assault, battery, rape, false imprisonment and others fall beyond the scope of her employment contract.

"The Court does not believe that Plaintiff's bedroom should be considered the workplace, even though her housing was provided by her employer," Ellison wrote.

Ellison did, however, rule that a sexual harassment claim that Jones included in her case against her supervisor in Texas would have to be decided in arbitration.

Halliburton, which has since divested itself of KBR, has said it is improperly named in the suit and has referred calls to KBR.

In arbitration, there is no public record nor transcript of the proceedings and Jones' claims would not have been heard before a judge and jury.