House Passes Congressional Accountability Act Reform Measures

Feb 6, 2018

WASHINGTON – Committee on House Administration Chairman Gregg Harper (R-Miss.) issued the following statement upon passage of two measures that will institute needed reforms to the congressional workplace. H.R.4924, the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 Reform Act (CAA Reform Act) brings more transparency, accountability, and stronger protections for employees. H.Res.724 will allow the House to immediately adopt administrative reforms, including creating an office where employees can seek guidance and counsel on employment issues, as well as requiring Members to certify that no Members Representational Allowance funds are used for any settlements in connection with conduct prohibited under the CAA.

Following passage of the measures, Chairman Harper said: “Over the past three months, the Committee on House Administration undertook a comprehensive review of the training, policies, and mechanisms to guard against sexual harassment in the congressional workplace. Since day one, I have said that there is no place for sexual harassment or any type of harassment, and that one case is one case too many – period. I believe the measures passed by the House today provide the needed reforms to greatly improve our workplace.

“I would like to thank Speaker of the House Paul Ryan for his leadership on this issue and for the trust he placed in our Committee to conduct this important review. Both the CAA Reform Act and the House Resolution passed today reflect the dedication and commitment of a bipartisan group of Members. Every Member of the Committee, particularly Ranking Member Brady, and Representatives Byrne, Speier, Brooks, and Deutch, joined together to ensure this institution remains worthy of the trust placed in it by the American people.

“During our review, the Committee held two hearings, three Member listening sessions, a roundtable with stakeholders, and meetings with victims and their advocates. These comprehensive reforms will provide a positive change of culture within the Congress, and improve the overall process of both preventing and reporting any harassment in the future. I am proud of the work this Committee and our bipartisan group of Members have done over the last several months and I look forward to seeing them enacted for the betterment of our congressional community.”

Background:
H.R.4924 & H.Res.724 Congressional Accountability Act Reform Measures

 Strengthens the Dispute Resolution Process and Protections of Employee Rights under the Congressional Accountability Act

 Hold Members Personally Responsible and Increases Transparency of Member Conduct, Awards, and Settlements through the Office of Compliance (OOC)

• Protects employees:

o Provides House employees with immediate access to a dedicated advocate who will provide legal consultation, representation, and assistance in proceedings before the OOC and Committee on Ethics;
o Provides opportunities for employees to work remotely or request paid leave without fear of retribution;
o Ensures confidentiality of processes;
o Directs the OOC to conduct climate survey of employees every two years that would include surveying attitudes on sexual harassment in the workplace; and
o Ensures every House Office has an anti-discrimination/anti-harassment policy.

• Streamlines and strengthens the dispute resolution and reporting processes:

o Eliminates the mandatory counseling and mediation provisions allowing an employee to proceed to an investigation or to file in federal court;
o Directs the OOC General Counsel to make one of three findings: 1) reasonable cause for claim; 2) no reasonable cause for claim; and 3) no findings of reasonable cause can be made before any hearing on the merits can be held; and
o Maintains opportunities for the employee to engage in mediation.

• Members held personally responsible for any sexual harassment award or settlement:

o Holds Members personally accountable for their conduct and requires awards or settlements to be repaid by the Member to the Treasury account within 90 days;
o Ensures Members who leave office will still be responsible for repaying the Treasury, including garnishing annuities to ensure full repayment;
o Requires claims to be automatically referred to the Committee on Ethics when there is a final award or settlement reached against a Member or a Senior Staffer;
o Ensures due process by allowing a Member to protect their interest;
o Clarifies that Member-on-Member harassment is a violation of the Official Code of Conduct; and
o Requires the Member or Employing Office to certify that no Members’ Representational Allowance (MRA) or official House funds are used to pay a settlement in connection with conduct prohibited under the Congressional Accountability Act.

• Strengthens transparency:

o Requires the OOC to report and publish online every six months information on awards and settlements. Reports must include: the employing office; the amount of the award or settlement; the violation claim(s); and, when a claim was issued against a Member, whether the Member has personally repaid the Treasury account.
o Requires the OOC to publish within 30 days all settlements and awards, the amount, and the public funds used for all section 201(a) claims.

CHA