Accountability Act Leaves Congress Unaccountable

Isn’t it nice to know your tax dollars have been used to payoff employees of Congress who have been subjected to civil rights, labor, and workplace safety and health law violations — presumably including sexual harassment?

Under the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 congressional staffers are covered by those laws and their employers are no longer exempt.

In most cases in private industry, the employer pays the penalties for violations of these laws, but not members of Congress. They get to pick our pockets for the settlement checks.

According to the Office of Compliance, taxpayers from the fiscal year 1997 through 2017 have shelled out $17.25 million dollars to cover the legal awards and settlements with congressional staffers.

Some of those settlements may well have been for sexual harassment, considering the recent spate of allegations against powerful men in Hollywood, the news media, as well as senators and congressmen and presidents.

Specifics about the reasons for the claims, the person complaining and the person complained about are conveniently not reported. Therefore, there is no accountability — ironically enough given the name of the aforementioned act — nor means for voters to address how their money is spent and whether they might consider changing their votes under the circumstances, were they known.

According to Politico, California Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier is pushing for legislation to make members of Congress personally liable for any harassment settlements. Why not any other violation of the law, too?

“Make no mistake that the fault of the current complaint process lies within Congress, which authored and passed this deeply flawed legislation that established the Office of Compliance and its burdensome complaint process,” Speier was quoted as saying. “It is our responsibility to fix this law and do better for our employees.”

Speier said a Sunday television talk show recently, “I think it was a system set up in 1995 to protect the harasser. This is not a victim-friendly process.”

She added, “One victim who I spoke with said, ‘you know, the process was almost worse than the harassment.’”

According to The Hill, Rep. Bradley Byrne, an Alabama Republican, and a labor attorney are pushing for a law granting the Office of Compliance the power to investigate and subpoena people.

“If they find something is actually a violation, to go actually present it as a case to an administrative law judge and ultimately to get justice for the victim — and not require the person that makes this allegation to go through counseling and mandatory mediation. If they want to do that great, but don’t force them to do it,” Byrne said in an interview.

The Congressional Accountability Act doesn’t make Congress accountable, but some law should. —TM

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