The Congressional Accountability Act (CAA) of 1995 requires Congress and legislative branch entities to follow many of the same employment and workplace laws applied to private business and the rest of the Federal Government.
In all, 13 civil rights, labor, and workplace safety laws are applied by the CAA:
- Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970
- Federal Labor Relations Act
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
- Americans with Disabilities Act
- Rehabilitation Act of 1973
- Family and Medical Leave Act
- Fair Labor Standards Act
- Age Discrimination in Employment Act
- Worker Adjustment and Retraining Act
- Employee Polygraph Protection Act
- Veterans’ employment and reemployment rights under Chapter 43 of Title 38 of the U.S. Code.
- Veterans Employment Opportunities Act
- Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act
CAA’s purpose is to protect over 30,000 employees of the legislative branch, including the following:
- House of Representatives and the Senate (both Washington, D.C. and state district office staff)
- Office of the Architect of the Capitol
- U.S. Capitol Police
- Office of Congressional Accessibility Services
- Congressional Budget Office
- Office of the Attending Physician
- Government Accountability Office
- Library of Congress
- Office of Compliance
The last legislative branch entity , the Office of Compliance (OOC), was created by CAA as an independent office to administer and enforce the Act, and to manage complaints and disputes involving “legislative branch entities” through an early resolution procedure of counseling, mediation, hearings, deliberations, and monetary “awards or settlements” — all of which are confidential.
Sexual harassment, abuse or rape are among the complaints and disputes involving legislative branch entities.
The money for the “awards and settlements” is drawn from a special account in the U.S. Treasury, created by Section 415 of the Congressional Accountability Act, under which the OOC is authorized to appropriate “such sums as may be necessary to pay such awards and settlements.” OOC’s executive director approves all such awards and settlements.
We do not know how much money is that “special account”. According to Section 1415 of CAA:
There are appropriated for such account such sums as may be necessary to pay such awards and settlements.
But we do know how much the OOC, that is taxpayers, paid in “awards and settlements” from 1997 to 2017 — a whopping $17.24 million.
That was revealed in a November 16, 2017 memorandum by Susan Tsui Grundmann, Executive Director of the Office of Compliance.
In the memo, Grundmann states that although the CAA does not require the OOC to release award and settlement figures:
“However, based on the volume of recent inquiries regarding payment of awards and settlements reached under the CAA, I am releasing these figures beginning with Fiscal Year 1997, up to and including FY 2017.”
By “volume of recent inquiries regarding payment of awards and settlements,” Grundmann was alluding to inquiries provoked by recent news concerning Congressmen Al Franken’s and John Conyers’ sexual misconduct.
Below is a table of settlements and awards paid by the Office of Compliance from 1997 to 2017 (click to enlarge). Note that I added the following to the table:
- The words “HR – Senate” for the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate.
- The letters “R” (Republican) and “D” (Democrat) to indicate the majority party in control of the House or Senate that year.
- The red circles.
- The last line in the table: “Total 1997-2017 / 264 / $17,240,854”
As you can see from the table:
- 2007 was the worst year, with the highest number of settlements (25) and the largest amount in total settlements and awards ($4,053,274), averaging $162,130 per settlement.
- 2002 is notable for the largest amount paid to each complainant — an average of $397,407 to each of the ten complainants.
Grundmann would not divulge which legislative entities were involved, or which member of Congress was accused of wrongdoing, or what the payoff was for. She writes:
AA large portion of cases originate from employing offices in the legislative branch other than the House of Representatives or the Senate, and involve various statutory provisions incorporated by the CAA, such as the overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act. The statistics on payments are not further broken down into specific claims because settlements may involve cases that allege violations of more than one of the 13 statutes incorporated by the CAA.”
Indeed, the Office of Compliance is under no obligation to inform the American people. This is what is stated on OOC’s “Contact Us” webpage:
The Office of Compliance is part of the legislative branch and is therefore not subject to the Freedom of Information Act.
The Office of Compliance is a part of Congress, the legislative branch of the U.S. federal government, with a 5-member, non-partisan Board of Directors who, in turn, appoint OOC’s executive staff, including its executive director. Susan Tsui Grundmann became Executive Director of the Office of Compliance in January 2017. Here’s her contact information:
John Adams Building
110 2nd Street SE, Room LA 200
Washington, DC 20540-1999
You should be outraged by this.
We, the taxpayers, paid $17.24 million (1997-2017) in hush money for Congress’ misdeeds. We have the right to be told the names of the miscreants, what they did, how much each has cost taxpayers, and how much is in that secret slush fund.
To contact your representatives in Congress, click here.
Reacting to taxpayers’ outrage about the hush-money slush-fund, three bills have been introduced in Congress to address this issue:
- A bill requiring lawmakers to pay back the funds, and have the amounts posted on a government website.
- A bill to stop the use of tax payer money and have the lawmakers face possible expulsion.
- A bill requiring lawmakers in past cases pay back the funds with interest, stop future payments, and ban non-disclosure agreements.