An arbitrator has awarded nearly $3 million to a former employee of defense contractor KBR who says she was raped while working in Iraq.
Tracy Barker originally sued the Halliburton subsidiary in 2007 after she was allegedly raped and held against her will in a storage container in the desert outside the southern Iraq city of Basra. In 2008, a Houston federal court ruled that Barker had signed an agreement that required her to use arbitration—not a civil lawsuit—to resolve employment-related claims.
According to court documents, Barker claimed that she endured an “oppressive and abusive” work environment and was constantly subjected to sexually explicit comments and verbal and physical threats of abuse. Barker claimed that she and other co-workers reported the behavior to various levels of , but that the company ignored her complaints of sexual harassment and assault and subjected her to further intimidation and retaliation.
Documents filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas now show that Barker has been awarded $2.9 million.
KBR has contested the arbitrator’s finding, and has asked that the award be reduced to $300,000.
Final note: As this case shows, sending cases to arbitration isn’t always an effective way to avoid a large damage award. Sometimes an arbitrator can be just as tough as a jury.
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