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Inouye, defense contractors to assault victims: “Not so fast”

October 22nd, 2009  |  Matt Pavich

>Updating an earlier series of blogs, it has been reported recently that an amendment that would prevent the government from working with contractors who blocked the access of assault victims to the courts may be watered down or ripped out entirely from a larger defense appropriations bill.

According to the Huffington Post, Senator Daniel Inouye, (D-Hi), a career recipient of $294,000 from the same defense and aerospace contractors who would benefit from the Senator’s decision, is considering removing or weakening the provision offered by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and passed by the Senate 68-30.

The report says that the contractors are “putting on a full-court press on this amendment.” Why, you ask? Apparently, the contractors are concerned that the language in the Franken amendment would leave them overly exposed to lawsuits and would pose an ongoing risk that their lucrative contracts might dry up.

Rather than attempt to bridge the divide between those who believe that victims of rape should have their day in court, regardless of arbitration agreements they may have signed and those who don’t, the Senate is considering removing the Title VII claim provision, thereby preventing victims of assault or rape to bring suit against the employer who may have contributed to their assault.

What could be done to stop this? Well, very little apparently. Since Inouye chairs the committee responsible for the bill, he can simply remove the provision and no one can prevent it. So, chalk up another victory for the power of money in politics and, if you’re so inclined, spare a thought for employees who, it appears likely, will be unable to receive their day in court if they happen to be assaulted while in the employ of firms that mandate arbitration agreements.

Make no mistake, in the end, that’s what this fight is about. Employers like Halliburton will fight tooth and nail to avoid having to litigate such cases and little wonder why; it’s cheaper to arbitrate, the awards are substantially lower and the employee is still the David facing off against the Goliath, only less well-armed. If Inouye strips the provision, it appears that $294,000 goes along way towards taking the slingshot out of David’s hand.