Washington, D.C.- Today, Congresswomen Jackie Speier (CA-14), Co-Chair of the Democratic Women’s Caucus; Lauren Underwood (IL-14), and Mary Gay Scanlon, (PA-05) introduced the Congressional Accountability Act (CAA) Enhancement Act with 11 of their colleagues to ensure the historic reckoning that began with the passage of the CAA Reform Act in 2018 continues by requiring Members of Congress, not taxpayers, to foot the bill for discriminating or retaliating against staff and that victims be on the same footing as Members when filing a claim.
“Though my bill, the CAA Reform Act, made historic and monumental changes in 2018, it’s clear more must be done to ensure Members are held to account for their discriminatory behavior and taxpayers aren’t left holding the bag. The only way to enact real change is to ensure those who commit these vile acts are made to pay up,” Rep. Speier said. “Congress must send a strong message that staff deserve robust rights and protections. I won’t stop fighting until Congress leads by example, and our workplaces are safe and dignified.”
“Congressional staff are the backbone of Congress, often putting in long hours as they work tirelessly to serve the American people. Like all Americans, they deserve to feel safe at work,” Rep. Underwood said. “I’m reintroducing this critical legislation with Reps. Speier and Scanlon to enhance protections for Congressional staff and ensure Congress is transparent and accountable. By strengthening policies that crack down on misconduct in the workplace, we can create a safer and more dignified work environment for Congressional staff.”
“All workers deserve a safe and dignified workplace — and public servants employed by the legislative branch are no exception," Rep. Scanlon said. "The CAA Enhancement Act combats discrimination in Congress by codifying and expanding the legal protections our staff deserve. By requiring that members of Congress be held personally liable for discrimination and harassment, this bill ensures that taxpayers do not have to foot the bill for holding lawmakers accountable."
In December 2018, Congress took bold action toward fixing its broken workplace harassment and discrimination reporting system by passing the CAA Reform Act, inspired by Rep. Speier’s ME TOO Congress Act. Thanks to those changes, victims of harassment and discrimination are no longer subject to mandatory counselling, mediation, and cooling-off periods; interns and fellows have the same rights as permanent staff; and taxpayers no longer foot the bill for Members’ harassing behavior. A separate resolution also created the House Office of Employee Advocacy to provide legal representation for victims and mandated that offices adopt an anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policy. The CAA Enhancement Act builds on that progress by:
- Requiring Members of Congress be held personally liable for the discrimination and related retaliation they personally commit. The CAA Reform Act made Members reimburse Treasury for awards and settlement for harassment and related retaliation, but not other forms of discrimination. If a Member personally commits an act of discrimination, they must pay, not the taxpayers.
- Requiring other legislative branch employing offices to repay Treasury for related retaliation. The CAA Reform required other legislative branch employing offices to repay Treasury for awards and settlements in all employment discrimination cases. However, those offices are not required to repay Treasury for amounts paid in connection with retaliation.
- Requiring the Office of Congressional Workplace Rights (OCWR) to give claimants 10 days to cure a deficient claim after the issuance of a preliminary hearing officer report and prior to dismissal. Such a notice rule and right to amend are standard in other employment adjudicative forums.
- Enabling the Office of Employee Advocacy to have jurisdiction in federal court. This change will level the playing field by allowing the Office that represents victims in the CAA administrative process to also represent victims in court, just as the Office of House Employment Counsel (OHEC) is allowed to represent Member offices in court.
The CAA Enhancement Act is endorsed by: National Women's Law Center, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Equal Rights Advocates, Workplace Fairness, A Better Balance, the National Partnership for Women and Families, National Employment Law Project, Women Employed, Institute for Women's Policy Research.
The CAA Enhancement Act is cosponsored by: Katie Porter (CA-45); Cheri Bustos (IL-17); Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC); Marie Newman (IL-3); Emanuel Cleaver, II (MO-5); Alma S. Adams, PhD (NC-12); Sara Jacobs (CA-53); Henry C. "Hank" Johnson, Jr. (GA-4); Danny Davis (IL-7); Juan Vargas (CA-51); and Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, (FL-20).
A copy of the bill text is attached to this press release below.
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