Working in Congress might carry a certain status in some circles, but employees there have the same complaints as workers elsewhere, yet they are not covered by the same laws protecting others.
The largest category of issues raised by Capitol Hill workers concerned “harassment/hostile work environment” in fiscal year 2014, according to a report released Thursday morning by the congressional Office of Compliance. Of 163 “requests for confidential counseling,” which is the first step in the dispute resolution process, 48 were for this category.
“Disparate treatment” is the second largest category and was cited 29 times. Together, the top two categories, out of 20, make up almost half of all inquiries. No other one was cited more than 14 times. The other categories include discharge, discipline and leave.
Despite a broad range of issues raised by congressional employees, they do not have the same protection as their counterparts in the government’s executive branch or the private sector.
“Congress is not covered by certain workplace rights laws required for U.S. businesses and the Federal Executive Branch, such as mandatory notice-posting of workplace rights, mandatory anti-discrimination training, and whistleblower protections for employees who report waste, fraud, and abuse,” the report says.
On discrimination issues, inquires related to sex, gender and pregnancy led the list with 60. “Race/color” was not far behind with 55 out of a total of 236.
The Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 does apply “a number of private sector and Executive Branch workplace rights, occupational safety and health, accessibility, and labor statutes to Congress,” the report says, but there are gaps.
To help fill those gaps, the Office of Compliance made these recommendations:
— “Mandatory anti-discrimination and anti-retaliation training for all congressional employees and managers”
— “Require notice-posting of congressional workplace rights in all employing offices”
— “Whistleblower protections for disclosing violations of laws, rules or regulations, gross mismanagement, gross waste of funds, abuses of authority, or substantial and specific dangers to public health.”