Thursday, October 29, 2009

"Responding to your message"

Dear Kaitlyn,

Thank you for taking the time to contact my office about Senator Franken's amendment to the FY2010 Defense Appropriations bill dealing with arbitration. Your input is important to me, and I appreciate the time you took to share your thoughts.

Senator Franken's amendment stemmed from a truly horrible crime committed against Jamie Leigh Jones, an employee of a company performing work in Iraq under a contract with the Defense Department. Please know, this amendment had no impact on law enforcement's ability to pursue criminal prosecution against anyone involved in committing these crimes, and dealt only with the agreements between employers and employees to resolve civil claims in arbitration rather than through litigation. What happened to Ms. Jones in this case is abhorrent and the culprits should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Separate and apart then from any criminal prosecution, Ms. Jones filed several claims in court in a civil suit against the company. The company argued that Ms. Jones could not sue in court because the employee signed an arbitration agreement to bring any claims against her employer to arbitration instead of being tried in court. However, the court ruled in favor of Ms. Jones by nullifying the arbitration agreement as to her claims of (1) assault and battery, (2) intentional infliction of emotional distress arising out of the assault, (3) negligent hiring, retention, and supervision of employees involved in the assault, and (4) false imprisonment. The court therefore said that employers can not require that civil claims of sexual assault be resolved through arbitration and that employees like Ms. Jones retain the ability to sue in court.

The Franken amendment sought to codify this court ruling in favor of Ms. Jones by requiring that contractors with the Defense Department exclude those four claims from their employee contract arbitration agreements. However, this amendment went much further than the court ruling by also requiring the exclusion from arbitration agreements of many of the possible employment claims an employee can bring against an employer. First, it is important to note that the Obama Administration opposed the Franken amendment because of its broad application and the problems associated with enforcing it. Rather than a targeted attempt to prevent the types of obstacles that Ms. Jones faced when she fairly sought restitution for the horrific acts that occurred, this amendment went well beyond in an effort to make a sweeping change to existing law among issues that never impacted this employee and that the court never addressed in this case.

I agreed with the court ruling and believe that the civil claims arising out of the sexual assault should not be arbitrated. However, I believe the amendment was too expansive, and went well beyond the situation the amendment was trying to remedy. I believe that arbitration can provide employees with a more efficient and cost-effective avenue for resolving their claims against their employer and I do not believe it should be largely eliminated as an alternative to what is sometimes a very lengthy, contentious, and expensive court process.

Thank you again for your letter. I hope you will continue to share your thoughts with me.


Bob Corker
United States Senator

The fact that both sent me quite similar letters tells me I'm not the only one to write them about their vote.

And I'm quite sad - where's the snail mail? You wanted my street address for a reason.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

"Correspondence From Senator Alexander"

Senator Alexander (I hate that I share a name with that man!) has responded by e-mail.

Dear Kaitlyn,

Thanks very much for getting in touch with me and letting me know what's on your mind regarding arbitration agreements.

Arbitration is a better option than litigation for many employees, but the courts can step in where arbitration doesn't sufficiently protect the rights of workers. Arbitration is neither designed nor intended to address criminal matters, such as sexual assault, but rather to provide an opportunity to resolve civil matters in a more timely, less expensive way than pursuing them in court.

What happened to Jamie Leigh Jones was deplorable, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit made the right decision by saying her case should be resolved in the courts. Specifically, the appeals court held that Ms. Jones' injuries were not related to her employment and thus not covered by the arbitration clause in her employment contract.

On October 3, 2009, the Senate passed the Franken amendment to the Defense Appropriations bill, which would prohibit the Pentagon from contracting with any company that requires its employees or independent contractors to sign mandatory arbitration clauses regarding certain claims. The Defense Department opposed the Franken amendment and was right to do so because it was too broad and banned arbitration in too many cases. When arbitration is inappropriate, the courts should overrule it as they did in this deplorable case.

I'm grateful you took the time to let me know where you stand. I'll be sure to keep your comments in mind as this matter is discussed and debated in Washington and in Tennessee.




Justify it.

I just wish that the democrats in this state had BALLS. Maybe this is about arbitration in his mind (ha!), but I wish his opponents would say it was about rape. If the parties were switched, the Republicans would be all over calling him a rapist. I mean, they ran an ad against Harold Ford Jr saying he would steal all the white ladies!

Why do we have to be so nice and wimpy? Swear to god, when I watched local TV in 06 and 08, I could not tell the "pro" Democrat from the Republicans until the end. (The anti... ooh, this one Mississippi anti-Democrat ad was hysterical! It showed the groups of people who had donated to the candidate in the worst light possible. Unfortunately, I don't remember the names or the year.)

One priceless pro-Republican ad for a state senator/something on the state level... it showed the candidate shooting guns with her family while the voice over talked about the sanctity of life!

I love it, I wish I didn't have to live it.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Franken Senate Defense Appropriations Amendment

You are a disgusting, vile piece of humanity. I am ashamed that I did not get to vote against you in 2006.

You voted against Sen. Al Franken's amendment which would protect RAPE VICTIMS. Surely, rape is an issue both parties agree is bad?

But no.

Franken is a Democrat. This interferes with business.

You disgust me.

I just sent this to Bob Corker and Lamarr Alexander, who are 2 of the 30 Republican men who voted against the amendment.

I am so glad it passed, but damn, what is wrong with people?

Corker wanted my phone number, but Alexander didn't. I'll probably get a form letter in reply. I have before.