In response to the "Franken Amendment" passed earlier this year, the Houston-based engineering and construction company has updated its dispute resolution policies. The changes include KBR's employee Ombuds program.
In October 2009, Senator Al Franken offered an amendment to the 2010 Defense Appropriations bill that would withhold defense contracts from companies like KBR "if they restrict their employees from taking workplace sexual assault, battery and discrimination cases to court." The amendment was prompted by the case of Jamie Leigh Jones, a KBR employee who claimed she was raped and held hostage by her co-workers, before evidence held by the company disappeared. KBR recently updated its policies to comply with the new law. Although the KBR Ombuds program was never implicated in the Jones matter, its practices were updated as well.
Debbie Crawford, a blogger who follows KBR and DoD contractors, obtained a recent KBR email summarizing the changes:
This information applies to you if you are currently covered by the Dispute Resolution Program.
AMENDMENTS to the DISPUTE RESOLUTION PROGRAM
Effective March 29, 2010
Copy of February 23, 2010 e-mail:
TO: All KBR Employees
FROM: Andrew Farley, Senior Vice President & General Counsel
Since 1993, the Dispute Resolution Program (DRP) has helped employees with finding productive solutions when workplace conflicts occur. Recent legislation and experiences have necessitated some amendments to the DRP and we are now giving you 30 days notice of these changes, which provide as follows:
1. The DRP will now exempt from 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 (See Plan Paragraph 2.E.4 and 3.E)
2. Clarifies who is covered by the Dispute Resolution Program (See Plan Paragraph 2.G)
3. Updates the selection process for the arbitrator (See Rules Paragraph 4 and 5)
4. Makes two typographical corrections in the Vacancies paragraph, with references to Paragraphs 5 and 6(instead of 6 and 5 as before) (See Rules Paragraph 6)
5. Refines how the hearing location is selected and set by the arbitrator (See Rules Paragraph 7.A and C)
6. Further defines the circumstances under which an arbitrator may modify an award (See Rules Paragraph 27
7. Clarifies the limitations for filing formal DRP proceedings (See Rules Paragraph 34.B)
8. Updates the International Ombudsman Association Standards of Practice in the Appendix, now dated 2009
The changes will go into effect on March 29, 2010. However, no change shall apply to a Dispute which is initiated prior to March 29, 2010.
The Dispute Resolution Program brochures will be reprinted and available to you soon, but in the mean time, the revised Plan and Rules is available online at theDRP website.
Should you have questions about these changes, please call the DRP office at 713-753-5383, or 800-947-7658.
(Ms Sparky [emphasis added].)
Like many corporate Ombuds programs, information about KBR's Ombuds office is available only to employees. This news therefore is significant because it confirms the relevance of IOA standards for a large, multinational corporation.