Contact: Cecelia Prewett
Washington, DC—This week before the House Education and Labor’s Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions Subcommittee, the issue of mandatory pre-dispute arbitration clauses in employment contracts was front and center during its hearing on “Protecting American Employees from Workplace Discrimination.”
Jamie Leigh Jones, a former Halliburton contractor working in Iraq who had previously revealed that she was drugged and gang-raped by fellow Halliburton employees, testified about how she is fighting to obtain access to the justice system because she unknowingly signed an arbitration clause as part of her 18-page employment contract.
When asked by Congressman Tierney if she was aware at that time that she could be signing away her rights by agreeing to arbitration, Jones responded, “At age 20, I had no idea what arbitration was…,” and further explained in her testimony that, “I had no idea what an arbitration was other than a tiny paragraph included in the lengthy document that mandated that I could not get justice from the civil court system.”
Ms. Jones asked the Committee in her testimony: “How can this Country not protect us contractors, who have left our families to help our country in an effort to build democracy overseas, when we are victimized criminally?”
To date, no criminal prosecutions have occurred in her case. When she turned to the civil courts for justice, she found that her employment contract contained an arbitration clause, which if upheld, could result in preventing her from seeking justice through the civil court system.
Congresswoman Sanchez pointed out that H.R. 3010, the Arbitration Fairness Act, would prevent the use of pre-dispute binding mandatory arbitration clauses in certain employment agreements, as well as in consumer and franchise agreements. This legislation will ensure that the decision to arbitrate is truly voluntary and that the rights and remedies provided for by our judicial system are not unknowingly waived.
H.R. 3010 currently has a bipartisan group of 70 cosponsors, and has been referred to the House Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law, chaired by Congresswoman Sanchez.