Norton Looks to Extend Workplace Protection to Congress’ Staff

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Posted August 3, 2015 at 10:00am

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., announced Friday she plans to introduce legislation to extend workplace protections and civil rights laws to congressional employees.  

“If Congress, our nationally elected legislature, is not yet a workplace where workplace laws are fully applied, how can Congress sit in judgment of public and private employers who must comply with the full complement of laws?” Norton asked in her statement announcing the bill. Her bill, which she will introduce this week, amends the Congressional Accountability Act, which extended workplace rights and protections to the legislative branch 20 years ago. Despite that act, Congress exempted itself from some of the laws governing the workplace, including protections for whistleblowers .  

The bill, dubbed the “Congress Leads By Example Act of 2015,” is identical to the legislation Norton introduced in the 113th Congress. She also introduced similar legislation in the 112th Congress. In both instances, the bills died in committee.  

Norton’s announcement came the day after the Office of Compliance, which enforces the Congressional Accountability Act, released its annual report . The OOC included a number of recommendations, including, for the fifth straight year, extending whistleblower protections to congressional employees.  

Norton’s bill would extend those protections to employees by stipulating that “no employing office may take or fail to take, or threaten to take or fail to take, a personnel action” against a whistleblower. The bill would also prohibit retaliation against an employee for requesting the OOC take action in the event of workplace rights or safety violation. Employing offices would also be required “to retain records necessary to administer anti-discrimination laws.”  

Though the bill did not become law in two previous Congresses, her effort could receive some renewed support in the Senate. Several members of the Senate Whistleblower Protection Caucus told CQ Roll Call Thursday they were unaware congressional employees were exempt from those protections , and would work to address the situation.