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Senate Votes to Cut Off Defense Contractors That Try to Cover Up Rape

October 8, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

If the government wants to avoid giving tax-payer money to companies that do awful things, this amendment, sponsored by Sen. Al Franken [D, MN], seems like a reasonable place to start:

S. Amndt. 2588 to H.R. 3326 – 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.

Translation: The amendment would prohibit the federal government from entering into contracts with any company that block their employees from pressing criminal charges for racial discrimination or on-the-job sexual assaults as a term of their employment.

It stems from a situation that actually happened. In 2005, an employee of Halliburton/KBR in Baghdad was drugged and gang-raped by fellow employees and then held under guard inside a shipping container for without food or water for 24 hours and told that if she sought help, she would lose her job. When she eventually did seek criminal action against her assailants, KBR resisted, citing the contract she had signed when she became an employee that required all sexual assault matters to be dealt with in private arbitration.

In the official title of the amendment, Sen. Franken mentions Hallibuton and KBR by name, but he wrote his amendment so that it applies to all companies.

The Senate voted on the amendment on Tuesday and it passed, but by not as overwhelmingly as you might expect. The vote tally was 68-30. All of the “no” votes were from Republicans. See the full list of the Senators that voted “no” here.

According to Josh Kraushaar at The Politico, “Republicans point out that the amendment was opposed by a host of business interests, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and applies to a wide range of companies, including IBM and Boeing.” Which begs the question: So what?

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