United States Congress Office of Compliance

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Summary

OOC Logo

The Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 (CAA) protects over 30,000 employees of the Legislative Branch nationwide and established the Office of Compliance (OOC or Office) to administer and ensure the integrity of the Act through its programs of dispute resolution, education, and enforcement.[1] The OOC assists members of Congress, employing offices and employees, and the visiting public in understanding their rights and responsibilities under workplace and accessibility laws, the OOC advises Congress on needed changes and amendments to the CAA; and the OOC's General Counsel has independent investigatory and enforcement authority for certain violations of the CAA.

The OOC has a five-member, non-partisan Board of Directors and four executive staff, appointed by the Board, who carry out the day-to-day functions of the Agency, the Office also employs professional staff on Capitol Hill who educate, communicate, inspect, litigate, and otherwise run its operations.

History

On January 23, 1995, the CAA became the first bill signed into law for the 104th Congress.[2] The legislation applied 11 civil rights, safety, labor, and public access federal laws to the Legislative Branch, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHAct), the Uniformed Service Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), among others. The law also established the OOC to ensure compliance with the CAA and provide an outreach and education program for Legislative Branch employers.  On January 23, 1996, the OOC officially opened.[2]

The OOC enforces several federal workplace and public access laws for the Legislative Branch through programs of dispute resolution, investigation, and education.  The OOC administers a mandatory, multi-step dispute resolution process that all employees must follow in order to process their claims under the CAA and supervises and certifies bargaining unit elections.  The OOC General Counsel routinely inspects Legislative Branch offices and facilities to ensure compliance with OSHAct and ADA standards.  The Office is also tasked with educating congressional employees and employing offices about their rights and responsibilities under the CAA and maintains a robust website with educational publications and on-line trainings. 

Since its founding, the OOC has overseen numerous changes in the areas of workers’ rights, safety and health, and public access in the Legislative Branch.  Between 1997 and 2002, a number of Legislative Branch employees have unionized, including police officers, masons, carpenters, electricians, plumbers, power plant laborers, and clerical and administrative workers.[2]  Since 2001, the OOC worked with offices on their emergency action plans, evacuation plans, chemical/biological response, communications, and fire safety systems.[2]  Between 2005 and 2011, safety hazards decreased each Congress even as the total space inspected by the OOC increased.[2]  In 2008, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act was applied to the Legislative Branch under the CAA.[2]  In 2010, the Veterans Employment Opportunity Act regulations approved by Congress began to apply to employees covered under the CAA.[2]

Leadership

The OOC’s current Board of Directors includes Board Chair Barbara L. Camens, Principal Proprietor, Barr & Camens; Alan V. Friedman, Partner, Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP; Roberta L. Holzwarth, Partner, Holmstrom & Kennedy, P.C.; Susan S. Robfogel, Of Counsel, Nixon Peabody LLP; and Barbara Childs Wallace, Of Counsel, Wise, Carter, Child & Caraway, P.A.[3]  Susan Tsui Grundmann, the former Chair of the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, joined the OOC as Executive Director in January 2017.[4]

FY 2016 Profile

In FY 2016, the OOC received 284 general information requests from covered employees which included OOC counselors providing informal advice and information regarding workplace issues and how to obtain an early resolution to a dispute.[5]  One inquiry may raise multiple claims. There were 49 requests for confidential counseling, the first step in the OOC’s formal dispute resolution process.[5]  Because of the mandatory counseling and mediation process, many workplace disputes were successfully resolved without a third party adversarial hearing.  Twelve cases were filed with the OOC Board of Directors for appellate review.[5]

The OOC’s FY 2016 educational efforts included providing in-person training to managers and EEO counselors of congressional agencies and developing online and interactive training modules on preventing sexual harassment and understanding the rights of employees with disabilities.[5]  The OOC’s safety and health specialists inspected numerous locations, including House and Senate office buildings, the United States Capitol Visitor Center, the United States Botanic Garden and Library of Congress buildings.[5]  During FY 2016, the OOC Board adopted new regulations and guidance on implementing the ADA relating to public services and accommodations and the FMLA in the Legislative Branch.[5]  These regulations are awaiting approval by Congress.

Recommendations

The CAA requires the OOC to issue a biennial report recommending federal workplace rights, safety and health, and accessibility laws and regulations that should be made applicable to Congress and its agencies.  The OOC recently submitted the following recommendations in its December 2016 report, Recommendations for Improvements to the Congressional Accountability Act: anti-discrimination and anti-retaliation training for all congressional employees and managers; whistleblower protections for employees who report fraud, waste, and abuse; approving regulations adopted by the Board of Directors implementing the FMLA, ADA, and USERRA; and applying the Wounded Warrior Leave Act to the Legislative Branch.[6]

On October 26, 2017, Congresswoman Brenda L. Lawrence introduced H.R.4155, which would make the OOC’s sexual harassment training mandatory for all employees covered under the CAA.[7]  On October 31, 2017, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton introduced H.R.4195, which would provide “enhanced enforcement authority for occupational safety and health protections applicable to the legislative branch, []whistleblower protections and other anti-discrimination protections for employees of the legislative branch.”[8]  On November 2, 2017, Congresswoman Jackie Speier introduced the Congressional Education About Sexual Harassment Eradication Resolution, a “bipartisan resolution that would require Members of the House, congressional staff, and other employees of the House to complete sexual harassment prevention and response training every year, and then file a certification of completion with the House Committee on Ethics.”[9]

References[edit]

External links[edit]