This week, it’s “Mission Accomplished” for private military contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan. No silly, not actual military accomplishments. (Fool me twice, shame on me, right?) This has to do with what’s apparently the other mission of these private miliary contractors – to mistreat their workers.
This week, ProPublica reports that “private contractors injured while working for the U.S. government in Iraq and Afghanistan filed a class action lawsuit” against private contracting companies and their insurers for refusing their medical treatment and disability payments. They say that in order to boost profits, companies like insurers AIG and contractor KBR “routinely lied, cheated and threatened injured workers, while ignoring a federal law requiring compensation for such employees.” (See the earlier investigation by ProPublica, the Los Angeles Times and ABC’s 20/20).
Hundreds of thousands of civilians working for federal contractors have been deployed to war zones to deliver mail, cook meals and act as security guards for U.S. soldiers and diplomats. As of June 2011, more than 53,000 civilians have filed claims for injuries in the war zones. Almost 2,500 contract employees have been killed, according to figures kept by the Department of Labor, which oversees the system.
And speaking of KBR, this week a federal judge slammed KBR’s revolting attempt to force Jamie Leigh Jones to pay them $2 million in attorneys fees after Jamie failed to win her rape case against one of her KBR co-workers in Iraq. She lost even though she was unconscious (due to drugs or alchohol, what’s the difference?) during a sexual encounter that her alleged attacker says was “consensual.” (Sound familiar?) However, although the judge clearly didn’t want to do it, he was forced by statute to order her to pay KBR $150,000 in court costs. He stated in his order, “The fact that Jones presented prima facie claims of sexual harassment and hostile work environment highlights the impropriety of an award of attorneys’ fees in this case.” Of course, the hostile work environment for women at this company could hardly be more clear but the jury never heard about it. And you wonder why she lost?
So after assassinating her character and getting away with not having to defend itself for what they put Jamie and other women through (check out the film Hot Coffee for more about Jamie when the DVD comes out in November), KBR and its corporate lawyers now want her to pay them money. This is reprehensible on so many levels, but we like how Gawker put it:
In July, Jamie Leigh Jones lost her federal civil trial against KBR—one of America's most capable government contractors—when a Houston jury determined that her coworkers had never drugged, raped, and shoved her into a shipping container. Or maybe they had, but she'd been asking for it—you know, like KBR said.
Originally KBR had asked for $2 million from Jones, an IT worker whose claim stemmed from an incident that allegedly took place in Baghdad in 2005 (you can find the complaint here). But the presiding judge dropped attorneys fees from her bill, so now all she owes is $145,073.19—money she reportedly does not have, this being America. (I bet you $145,073 that KBR would quibble over the 19 cents.)...
[This is] the result of KBR taking advantage of its right under the federal Civil Rights Act to collect from Jones. However, the company could have decided against pursuing the costs (because they're already super-loaded), or possibly sought to recoup them from the government (because having taxpayers foot the bill for corporations is how we do business).