Thanks to some procedural cunning, House staffers get overtime, paid parental leave benefits

Democrats quietly slipped in the changes before Republicans take control of the House

Rep. Zoe Lofgren helped land some long-sought changes for Hill staffers this week. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Rep. Zoe Lofgren helped land some long-sought changes for Hill staffers this week. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted December 14, 2022 at 3:41pm

Rep. Zoe Lofgren and the House Rules Committee deployed some nifty procedural moves Wednesday to extend overtime pay and paid parental leave benefits to House staffers.

Lofgren, who chairs the House Administration Committee, introduced a resolution Monday that implements regulations drafted by the Office of Congressional Workplace Rights related to how the House applies provisions of the Family and Medical Leave Act and Fair Labor Standards Act to its own employees.

On Wednesday, the Rules Committee tucked the resolution into the rule governing floor debate on the continuing resolution that would fund the federal government for another week while appropriators put the finishing touches on a spending omnibus for fiscal 2023.

When that rule was then adopted on the House floor, the resolution was automatically adopted as well.

The California Democrat’s resolution implements OCWR regulations that provide aides with the same overtime protections as federal and private-sector employees. It also implements some updates to FMLA regulations for House workers, providing them the same parental leave that Congress gave executive branch workers in 2019, revising the definition of a spouse to include same-sex couples, and allowing staffers to use FMLA leave to care for family members who are active service members or veterans in some circumstances.

Lofgren’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Last week, a coalition of staffer groups and outside congressional reform advocates led by the Congressional Progressive Staff Association, the Congressional Workers Union and Demand Progress sent letters to congressional leaders demanding the Fair Labor Standards Act regulations’ adoption before the lame-duck session’s end.

Backers have rushed to get these OCWR regulations adopted before the less labor-friendly Republicans take control of the House next year. 

Lofgren’s resolution moved so quickly and quietly that it caught supporters by surprise when a reporter contacted them for comment. 

“This is an incredible investment in the congressional workforce and affirms the House’s commitment to improve workplace conditions, benefits, and pay for congressional staff,” said Taylor J. Swift, senior policy adviser at Demand Progress. “This has been a paramount year for improving staffers’ rights in the House, and now it’s time for the Senate to take action to ensure their staff have the same overtime pay rights.”

The resolution will affect only House staffers. Like the regulations allowing staffers to unionize that the House adopted this spring, it’s unlikely that the Senate will adopt a resolution implementing these OCWR regulations, given Republican opposition.

“Dedicated congressional staff who work late into the night, on holidays, and over weekends to serve their boss and constituents deserve these long-promised protections. We are thrilled with this win for workers in the House, and now we call on the Senate to do the right thing and pass this provision for staff in their chamber as well,” said Zoe Bluffstone, spokesperson for the Congressional Progressive Staff Association.

OCWR promulgated the regulations under the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995, a law passed under the banner of the GOP’s “Contract with America” that aimed to subject Congress to the same workplace laws as the private sector. Nearly 30 years later, some of the statute’s provisions remain unimplemented.

Daniel Hillburn contributed to this report.