Washington, D.C.- Today, Representatives Jackie Speier (D-CA), Bradley Byrne (R-AL), Lauren Underwood (D-IL), and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) introduced the Congressional Accountability Act (CAA) Enhancement Act to restore two common-sense provisions that passed the House unanimously in the CAA Reform Act last Congress, but were dropped from the final bill signed into law.
The legislation would ensure that taxpayers don’t foot the bill for discriminatory behavior perpetrated by Members of Congress. The CAA Reform Act made Members financially liable for harassment and related retaliation they commit, but shockingly discrimination was cut from the final bill passed in 2018. The new bill also would require an independent investigation of an allegation by the Office of Congressional Workplace Rights. This would provide an objective collection of the facts, and ensure parity with what Congress has already mandated for private sector employers. Unfortunately, by dropping this provision in the CAA Reform Act, Congress continues to treat itself differently than the private sector and give its employees fewer rights and protections.
“Last year, I was proud to work across party lines to shine a bright light on the scourge of harassment and discrimination that thrives in the darkest recesses of the Capitol,” Rep. Speier said. “Discrimination is as egregious as harassment, if not more so. Congress must send a strong message that Members, not taxpayers, will be held accountable for their actions and that staff will receive the robust rights and protections they deserve. I won’t stop fighting until Congress leads by example, and our workplaces are safe and dignified.”
“Members of Congress should have to play by the same rules as every other American,” Rep. Byrne said. “I was proud to work with Representative Speier last year to hold Congress accountable and eliminate the taxpayer slush fund that had been used to pay off sexual harassment claims. Now we are taking the next step to ensure that Members of Congress are treated with the same standards as private sector employers and that taxpayers will not foot the bill when a Member of Congress discriminates in his or her office.”
“Congress must lead by example to ensure that workplaces are safe from harassment and discrimination for all congressional employees. By requiring independent investigations to protect workplace rights, the CAA Enhancement Act will provide all congressional staff with these protections,” Rep. Fitzpatrick said. “Additionally, taxpayers should not have to front the bill for misconduct on the part of their elected officials, and I am glad to see this bill will make Members personally liable for acts of discrimination. I thank my colleagues for their hard work on this bipartisan legislation.”
In December 2018, Congress took a bold step toward fixing its broken workplace harassment and discrimination reporting system by passing the CAA Reform 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 is endorsed by the National Women’s Law Center; ACLU; Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights; Public Citizen; Congress Too; Futures Without Violence; National Partnership for Women & Families; National Alliance to End Sexual Violence; Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, Inc.; American Atheists; Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance; Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington; Coalition of Labor Union Women; Equality California; GovTrack.us; Impact Fund; Legal Momentum; The Women's Legal Defense and Education Fund; Mazzoni Center; National Association of Social Workers; National Center for Transgender Equality; National Employment Law Project; National Employment Lawyers Association; National Equality Action Team (NEAT); People For the American Way; Rural Coalition; Senior Executives Association (SEA); Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS); The Multiracial Activist; Women Employed; and Woodhull Freedom Foundation.
A fact sheet about the bill and a copy of the bill text are attached to this press release.
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