When Margaret Mead famously said “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has,” I’m sure even she couldn’t have envisioned a young woman named Jamie Leigh Jones. As a 20-year-old, Jamie experienced some of the worst horrors one could imagine but rather than cower in the corner feeling helpless and defeated, she has used that experience to change the world.
After a 6-year battle, Jamie’s lawsuit finally has begun (with opening statements today) against military contractor KBR, a former Halliburton subsidiary. As we’ve noted here before, Jamie filed suit for a 2005 gang-rape and other horrendous acts committed against her by the company and some of its employees while she was working in Iraq. The company’s response was to try to keep her out of court entirely, claiming:
... Jones signed an agreement that required all of her work-related claims to be resolved through private arbitration.
The Jones suit has long been viewed as a test case regarding the reach of workplace arbitration clauses. ...
The Fifth Circuit in 2009 ruled that Jones can pursue her case in court, concluding that her rape allegations “do not touch matters related to her employment.” ...
“Jamie has waited six years to have her day in court and she’s happy to finally talk to a jury,” her attorney, Lannie Kelly, told AP.
By never giving up, Jamie's case has not only advanced the important cause of employees' legal rights, but has also
[H]elped put an intense spotlight on the behavior of military contractors overseas, as numerous other women accused KBR employees of sexual assault. Jones’ story eventually led to congressional hearings. ...
Since the organization was established, 42 alleged sexual assault or rape victims associated with or employed by KBR have come forward ...
Kelly also is representing a former KBR employee, Anna Mayo, a 27-year old Austin woman who says she was beaten, choked unconscious and raped at a KBR barrack in Balad, Iraq, last November.
But Jamie has achieved even more. “Due in part to Jones’ case, federal lawmakers in 2009 approved a measure prohibiting contractors and subcontractors that receive $1 million in funds from the Department of Defense from requiring employees to resolve sexual assault allegations and other claims through arbitration.”
And believe it or not, it doesn’t stop there. Jamie has also set up a foundation “dedicated to helping United States citizens and legal residents who are victims of crime while working abroad for government contractors and subcontractors.”
Jamie’s courageous story is featured in the new documentary Hot Coffee, which airs on HBO June 27. The film, which we’ve been covering here at ThePopTort, has been getting wonderful recognition, most recently winning the Grand Jury prize at the Seattle International Film Festival.
You can see a glimpse of Jamie in the trailer, below. All good thoughts going out to her today.