Franken passes law denying fed contracts to companies that support rape of employees

Go Senator Al! Al Franken successfully introduced legislation that denies federal contracts to companies that have policies -- anywhere in the world -- that punish employees for complaining about rape or discrimination on the job. This is in response to a KBR/Halliburton employee in Iraq who was drugged and gang-raped by co-workers and denied justice or even medical treatment, then locked in a storage container for 24 hours and told that she'd lose her job if she left the country to get medical help. She was also prohibited from suing or seeking criminal justice because her Halliburton contract forbade seeking any justice apart from private arbitration.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) tried to block the amendment, saying that it was a "a political attack directed at Halliburton." Franken replied, "This amendment does not single out a single contractor. This amendment would defund any contractor that refuses to give a victim of rape their day in court."

Sessions' brave defense of the right of private companies to deny justice to drugged and gang-raped employees should not be forgotten. Truly, the man is a model of moral principle.

[Franken]: "The constitution gives everybody the right to due process of law ... And today, defense contractors are using fine print in their contracts do deny women like Jamie Leigh Jones their day in court. ... The victims of rape and discrimination deserve their day in court [and] Congress plainly has the constitutional power to make that happen..."

Appearing with Franken after the vote, an elated Jones expressed her deep appreciation. "It means the world to me," she said of the amendment's passage. "It means that every tear shed to go public and repeat my story over and over again to make a difference for other women was worth it."

Franken Wins Bipartisan Support For Legislation Reining In KBR's Treatment Of Rape (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)


  1. I will say this very clearly, and I hope I am heard. If this man runs for President. I will vote for him. Somebody fund him.

    1. I’d vote for this guy for president in a heartbeat. He seems to be knowledgeable and have a good head on his shoulders. That makes him an unlikely politician, but also the kind you really want to support.

  2. It’s sad that doing something as blatently morally obvious as this warrents a phrase like: “Truly, the man is a model of moral principle.”

    It’s even sadder that some human excrement actually stood up to argue against this.

  3. Two thumbs up for Franken for once again exceeding expectations and making the GOP look like utter fools. (Like they need help.)

    “her Halliburton contract forbade seeking any justice apart from private arbitration.”

    This kind of thing is why I can’t take libertarians seriously. Justice will end up belonging to whoever draws up the contracts.

  4. Sounds fairly reasonable.

    On the other hand, I do wonder how soon there’ll be a workaround to it from either the government or corporate side– there can’t be that many giant corporations doing outsourced government work, I imagine most of them would employ mandatory arbitration clauses, and I imagine they’d be difficult to replace on short notice.

    1. Can the government not, ultimately, say ‘we make the laws, we’ve decided that this particular clause of your contract is, in fact, some seriously egregious bullshit. Now, would you like to remove it, or go to jail?’

      I know, I know. No, probably not…

    1. youre a hero for simply posting his contact, just sent him a letter thanks!!! this action is what we need

  5. @4 Stefan:

    You obviously don’t understand Libertarianism very well if you think that the concepts that it espouses (such aequal protection for all individuals under the law) would lead to this.

    In a libertarian society, this amendment Al is introducing would be a perfect example of individual rights being upheld in the face of corporate interests.

  6. Er, my previous comment was due to a misread. Please ignore.

    Except the part where I refered to Sessions as human excrement. That stands.

  7. I’m amazed that we even need a law like this. I can’t believe that Halliburton contract was enforceable.

  8. Um, how is it even possible that one can sign away your rights? In contracts in Canada you certainly can’t stipulate anything in regards to criminal justice. A crime is a crime, and is outside the realm of contract law, but is part of criminal law.

  9. The press painted Franken as a bit of a head case when he was running for office.

    I gotta say, though – the more I see of him/read of him, the more I like him.

    He’d never be elected president, though — the political machine couldn’t handle a guy who actually thinks about what’s going on.

    Sure hope he runs, though.

  10. @Avram

    Agreed, how is such a clause even legal. I’ve heard of “no sue” clauses which stop you suing the employer about certain things, but how can a private job contract prevent you seeking justice?

    That’s nuts.

    More evidence that organisations like Halliburton think they are above the law.

    And I really hope that Session’s opponents make the most of this at the next election. Truly, the man is pond scum.

  11. I too don’t understand how a contract mitigating criminal behaviour by the company or its employees can possibly be legally enforceable.

  12. We need more people like this in politics. People who don’t cower down when faced with corporate mobsters. Not just in the US, but all around the world.

  13. it passed 68 to 30. all 30 (negative) votes were from republicans. note: 10 republicans DID vote for it including all 4 women

    and i also read this (which is quite eye opening)

    ‘DailyKos blog, Markos Moulitsas writes:

    This is interesting. According to Republicans, a fake pimp and ho, reported to the police, was apparently so beyond the pale that they’ve worked to strip ACORN of all federal funding. But denying employees actual redress from gang rapes is no big deal?’

  14. @Gilbert- Probably, but that’s not what the law would do. “Would you like to remove the clause, or lose your government contract?”
    At which point someone gets to clear his throat and ponder what happens if the people providing support services just _stop_ one day.

    1. Government contracts are the most heavily regulated work a company can do now, and I haven’t noticed any projects wanting for contractors. I’m pretty sure that as long as there is money to be made, someone will step up to the plate, even if they can’t prevent their employees from seeking justice for violent crimes committed against them.

      Besides, once somebody “clear(s) his throat and ponder(s) what happens if the people providing support services just _stop_ one day”, someone else will clear their throat and ponder what happens if the government seizes control of the company as “vital to the interests of the United States”. Governments can play REAL hardball if they so choose, after all.

  15. That this was even something that had to be fought for is deeply distrubing!

    Impressed that there are actually polliticians fighting for the good of the people they serve. Finally.

  16. Anyone care to speculate on what Franken’s repellent predecessor, Norman (Quimby) Coleman, would have done?

  17. “She was also prohibited from suing or seeking criminal justice because her Halliburton contract forbade seeking any justice apart from private arbitration.”

    Can we go back to how this could possibly stand up to legal challenge? I get the “you can’t sue you because you have agreed to arbitration” part, but not the “prohibited from seeking criminal justice” part. This just seems like it has to be incorrect. Does anyone have any good links to a more careful examination of this claim?

    1. Okay… trying to answer my own question here, I’ve been reading and watching what I could find related to this.

      I have not found anything to indicate that these employment contracts say boo about criminal prosecution. I have definitely not found anything to indicate that it would matter one bit, under the law, if they did. It just doesn’t work that way.

      What I *do* find is story after story — including this one, of course — of the US State Department, Justice Department, DoD, and on and on willfully ignoring serious crimes and simply declining to enforce the law.

      This is totally out of hand and completely unacceptable, but the last thing that seems likely to help matters is another law. So, I think I am unimpressed with Franken’s shtick in this case. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love Al, but the problem here seems to be totally untouched by his legislation.

  18. Sorry to interrupt the Franken love-fest, but…

    Of course this legislation is directed at Halliburton. I’m not saying the legislation is wrong, but it’s wrong-headed. If Franken wanted to write something meaningful, it would be a bill that disallows contracts for companies that prevent due process of law for _any_ crimes committed against US citizens. To write something so narrow is simply knee-jerk reactionary and just the sort of thing that mucks up the cogs of government. However, because of the nature of the problem it purports to solve, it’s political suicide to oppose. (See: comments re: Sessions R-AL) This is grandstanding, and it’s what you’d expect from a stand-up comedian. It’s easier (and usually funnier) to point to something obviously wrong and suggest a band-aid fix than to take the time to concoct a meaningful solution.

    1. I’m sure the “rape-only” aspect of the legislation can be amended in the future, to allow for other equally-abhorrent crimes.

      Now all you have to do is name one.

      1. Attempted murder is pretty bad. Torture. Kidnapping.

        If this were just about rape, then I’d see Chainring’s point more (how many people working under contracts like these are raped by other employees? We need to protect them, of course, but it’d be a very limited amendment).

        But according to Cory (since I’m too lazy to look up the text) it also protects against discrimination, which is a much broader net. It’s not a complete grandstand.

        1. The exact language of the amendment:

          None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be used for any existing or new Federal contract if the contractor or a subcontractor at any tier requires that an employee or independent contractor, as a condition of employment, sign a contract that mandates that the employee or independent contractor performing work under the contract or subcontract resolve through arbitration any claim under title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or any tort related to or arising out of sexual assault or harassment, including assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, false imprisonment, or negligent hiring, supervision, or retention.

  19. @JoshuaTerrell

    I guess I don’t understand either. What version of ‘libertarianism’ is in favor of government overriding voluntary private contracts? She signed the employment contract of her own free will – no one forced her to. I thought the central tenant of libertarian orthodoxy was the sanctity of private contract.

    So, while I agree with you that someone who truly cares about individual freedom should support Franken’s legislation, you can’t consistently make that case without acknowledging that, in the name of freedom, it is sometimes the business of government to restrict and regulate contracts, not just enforce them.

  20. How much of Hollywood will be prevented from receiving federal contracts now? Running down the list of Roman Polanski supporters … it’s a pretty long list.

  21. @Chainring,

    You’re right, if somebody didn’t do everything they should, then we shouldn’t celebrate them for doing something good that no one else was bothering to do.

    In fact, I can’t help but notice that it’s easier to post snarky blog posts criticizing Sen Franken than it is to run for office, get elected, and enanact any meaningful legislation. This is basically grandstanding, and it’s just what you’d expect from random internet posters.

  22. As to the “is the clause even legal/enforceable”:

    That question is secondary to: Does the employee believe it is legally enforceable?

    I think there should be some consideration given to the fact that most people who sign contracts are *not* lawyers, especially employment contracts…A company isn’t legally obligated to inform you of all your legal rights or likelihoods (what will hold up in court), and they prey on that and the ignorance (non-education) of the employees to enforce all kinds of restrictions placed into the contracts that only benefit the company and no provisions to benefit the employee.

    Sure, it’s ultimately the employee’s responsibility to know what their rights are, what the law says, and how to approach their objections so as to not cause a bankruptcy for themselves trying to take the corporations to court.

    I think the law should either:
    make basic legal training an option in school or available out-of-school (website, webinars, library-held presentations, tax breaks to non-profits who significantly publicize their free training, etc.)
    require contracts not to include provisions that are illegal or are not legally enforceable.

    Which looks more libertarian?

  23. @Chainring – Think of it as a wedge issue, but on the side of good and righteousness. No-one will oppose a law against rape. Once that is established as a precedent, it will be easier to pass something similar for savage beatings. Once that is established, it will be easier to pass something similar for extortion.

  24. Setting aside the merits of this amendment, one thing Franken said is goofy: “The constitution gives everybody the right to due process of law.”

    For crimes committed *anywhere in the world*?

    And the constitutional right to due process is a right of the *accused*, not of the alleged victim.

  25. A court can, in fact, rule that a contract has clauses that are against public policy, as anything denying a victim her civil rights and criminal process would be. Perhaps Ms. Jones was given bad advice originally (or perhaps she thought she’d get nowhere as long as Cheney was in power), but I am happy that she feels elated over this. Jeff Sessions and the people at Halliburton are scum.

  26. I told Jeffy boy that he’s pond scum, and that I would make a contribution to whoever runs against him. I don’t generally believe in an “anybody but him” point of view, but in this case, I’m willing to go out on a limb and say yes, anyone, anyone at all, instead of Sessions.

    Of course he’ll just go get a 7-figure salary working for Halliburton’s K Street cheerleaders.

  27. Of course it was aimed at Halliburton. But it’s the principle of being picked on by bullies: knock one of them out and the rest won’t bother you either. You can go around attacking ALL of them or you can hit one of them really hard.

    Sessions is still an idiot. And the fact that all dissenting votes were republicans just add evidence to my theory that some republicans will vote against any bill introduced by a democrat, regardless of it’s content.

  28. The amendment is too broad. “Negligent hiring, supervision, or retention” should be resolved in arbitration and “false imprisonment” is obviously related to the KBR case.

    1. So false imprisonment should go to arbitration? The whole thing is aimed at KBR, since they are the ones that did the deed that inspired the legislation. It just happens to apply to anyone else who might do such a morally bankrupt thing as well. Seems like a win to me.

  29. “This kind of thing is why I can’t take libertarians seriously. Justice will end up belonging to whoever draws up the contracts.”

    Bravo, sir. Well said. That’s the most useful statement I have encountered in quite a while.

    Also second the notion of Franken for president. I would gladly donate my time to him.

  30. Uh, Franken doesn’t “pass laws”, Congress does. Also, as effing stupid as Halliburton’s contract and the actions of these criminals was I seriously doubt Halliburton “support[s] the rape of employees”.

    Such presentation belies a political bias I find distasteful and is why I don’t read this blog (except when a friend passes along a link to bait me into conversation).

    @Chainring Well said.

    1. Okay, dmaddock1m, I sort of agree with you in general terms, but if you’re going to be bitchy about it I’ll point out that that’s a complete misuse of the word “belies.”

      It’s always a bad idea to overreach your vocabulary when being snarky.

    2. @dmaddock1

      Its a blog. They’re allowed to have a political bias, and talk loosely about the attitudes of a corporation who have quite clearly acted appallingly.

      You’re confusing it with a news service, like, say, Fox News, who make claims to unbiased journalism and impartial commentary, and therefore have a responsibility to meet those claims.

      I like the more casual tone here, and if you don’t, you kind of just wasted your time and everybody elses, didn’t you?

      1. “You’re confusing it with a news service, like, say, Fox News…”

        That’s hilarious. It’s probably falling on deaf ears since you didn’t scream it.

  31. @sirdook

    Contracts ARE sacred to libertarians, but only insofar as they are valid. To be valid, a contract must be consensual (at the very least). Rape, by definition, is non-consensual. To a libertarian, a contract that attempts to prevent you from seeking justice to a non-consensual act would be invalid.

    Murray Rothbard discusses this idea in Chapter 19 of his “The Ethics of Liberty.”

  32. Only a Republican would attempt to defend the ‘human rights’ of poor oppressed non-sentient Halliburton.

  33. dmaddock1:
    You’re right about the technical discrepancy, but remember also that Cory isn’t a U.S. citizen and so won’t necessarily know the details of the US legislative process (like all the U.S. citizens would, heh heh). In any case, there are likely to be other BB readers who’d like some more clarification, which I humbly offer here.

    The post’s title begins, “Franken passes law…”

    No law has been passed yet. When and if it is, it’ll be passed by Congress with the signature* of the President, or by overriding his veto without it.

    What’s happened here is that an amendment to pending legislation was introduced by Franken. The amendment passed in the Senate, and then the spending bill as amended passed the Senate. What passed in the Senate is different from the version that already passed in the House of Representatives, however, so now the versions need to be reconciled and, potentially, passed again in one or both chambers.

    Cory’s lead-in includes, “Al Franken successfully introduced legislation …”

    I wouldn’t say Franken introduced legislation, since it was merely an amendment. I also wouldn’t crow about “successfully introducing” anything, since it is my belief that any member of the Senate or House can introduce an amendment or even an entire bill for consideration by the respective body. A bill needs to get past the gatekeeping Calendaring Committee, but any reasonable bill ought to make it. And AIUI, any duly elected Senator (pause for laughter here) with a tidbit of gumption can propose a bill or amendment. I think all Franken had to do was show up and express an interest in speaking.

    *There are special circumstances where legislation passed by Congress can become law after ten days without a signature by the President, but let’s leave that out for now.

  34. As I whipped thru the comments, I saw a couple with which I disagree just a bit.

    Sen. Jeff Sessions was referred to as ‘human excrement’ and as ‘pond scum’.

    First – I question the use of the term ‘human’ in regard to him, and

    Second – I believe this is a serious affront to blue-green algae!

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