Congress has developed a solid reputation as a group that does not work well together for legislative purposes. Based on a recent internal report, it’s not looking all that good for its employee base either.
The much-anticipated “State of the Congressional Workplace” report (see PDF) is an overview of the employment climate on Capitol Hill and its 30,000 employees. Included in the group are all Congressional staffs and their counterparts in field offices throughout the U.S. during fiscal year 2010. The Architect of the Capitol and the U.S. Capitol Police teams are also in the tally.
We all know the turnover is already high – that’s comes naturally with every election cycle and is a core aspect of the job. But, according to the report, allegations of violations in workplace rights have increased when compared to five years ago. Many of the issues raised involve discrimination or harassment due to factors of race, age, sex, or disability. The report says that 105 new counseling requests were processed along with 86 mediation requests.
Offices on Capitol Hill are not required, like private industry, to provide certain human resource tools and backups to support employees. Record-keeping, whistle-blower protections, anti-discrimination training, and posting of workplace rights is not required in Congress. Lawmakers do, however, mandate that the Executive Branch meet these stipulations. The report admonishes Congress for not imposing the regulations on itself as well.
It’s the blind leading the blind, so to speak.
House and Senate leadership, ironically, had no comment about the report’s findings. The lawmakers they lead and their staffs make up a large percentage of the employees covered in the report. The Capitol Hill Police were also quiet about the news.
Tamara E. Chrisler, the executive director of the Office of Compliance (OOC), offered her thoughts on the violations in a statement accompanying the report.
“These cases are becoming more complex and sophisticated, often with multiple allegations of discrimination, discovery disputes, and issues related to the OOC’s rules and procedures,” said Chrisler.
In addition to personnel issues, workplace safety concerns were also covered in the “State of the Congressional Workplace.”
The report notes that 5,400 hazards were found in the workplace during the 111th Congress, a 42 percent drop compared to the previous session.
“While Congress has made great strides in abating many of the hazards around the Capitol complex, a dozen dangerous hazards remain within the Congressional workplace,” Ms. Chrisler notes in the report.
“These hazards are ones that could cause permanent, total disability and even death to employees and visitors to the Capitol in the event of an accidental fire or a fire caused by a terrorist attack,” she added.
The “State of the Congressional Workplace” compilation is released annually and covers the prior fiscal year. Let’s see what next year says about the new Republican leadership.