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The Manual.online, The congressional Accountability Act

 

INTRODUCTION

The Congressional Accountability Act and the Office of Compliance

The Congressional Accountability Act (Public Law 104-1), the first law passed by the 104th Congress, applies certain rights and protections of eleven workplace laws to employees of the legislative branch of the federal government.

The Congressional Accountability Act (CAA) establishes the Office of Compliance, an independent office within the legislative branch, with a five-member Board of Directors, an Executive Director, a Deputy Executive Director for the Senate, a Deputy Executive Director for the House of Representatives and a General Counsel. The Office administers a procedure to resolve disputes and to provide remedies if violations are found, and provides education and information to employees and employing offices.

The Manual

This Manual was prepared by the Office of Compliance to provide a resource for employing offices as they assume their responsibilities under the Congressional Accountability Act. For easy reference, the laws made applicable under the CAA, as of January 23, 1996, are described in eight separate sections: EMPLOYMENT DISCRIMINATION BASED ON RACE, COLOR, SEX, OR NATIONAL ORIGIN; EMPLOYMENT DISCRIMINATION BASED ON AGE; EMPLOYMENT DISCRIMINATION BASED ON DISABILITY; FAIR LABOR STANDARDS; FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE; POLYGRAPH PROTECTION; WORKER ADJUSTMENT RETRAINING AND NOTIFICATION; and UNIFORMED SERVICES EMPLOYMENT AND REEMPLOYMENT RIGHTS.

Additional statutory provisions will go into effect on October 1, 1996 and January 1, 1997. Future updates to the Manual will include materials on those provisions.

The Manual addresses many of the questions that may arise under the CAA and is designed to serve as a guide to understanding how the law may apply. Part A of each section contains a summary of the rules and regulations, or referenced statute; Part B contains "questions and answers" highlighting areas of interest; and Part C contains the actual rules or regulations promulgated by the Board of Directors.

Covered Employees

Under the CAA, covered employees are: employees of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate; the Capitol Guide Service; the Capitol Police; the Congressional Budget Office; the Office of the Architect of the Capitol; the Office of the Attending Physician; the Office of Compliance; the Office of Technology Assessment. This definition includes current employees, as well as job applicants, and former employees in certain cases.

Employing Offices

Under the CAA, an employing office is: the personal office of a Member of the House of Representatives or of a Senator; a committee of the House of Representatives or the Senate or a joint committee; any other office headed by a person with the final authority to appoint, hire, discharge, and set the terms, conditions, or privileges of the employment of an employee of the House of Representatives or the Senate; or the Capitol Guide Board, the Capitol Police Board, the Congressional Budget Office, the Office of the Architect of the Capitol, the Office of the Attending Physician, the Office of Compliance, and the Office of Technology Assessment.

Notices and Record Keeping

With certain exceptions (see sections on FMLA and Polygraph), the CAA does not generally require employing offices to either post notices or keep records. However, it would be prudent for employing offices to keep records that document their actions. As required by the CAA, the Office of Compliance has distributed a brochure suitable for posting describing employee rights and protections. If an employing office chooses to post the brochure, it is suggested that the brochure (both front and back) be posted where employee notices are customarily placed.

General Remedies and Limitations

Only a covered employee who has undertaken and completed required counseling and mediation procedures may be granted a remedy. Also, no person may commence an administrative or judicial proceeding to seek a remedy for rights and protections under the CAA except as provided in the CAA. (Covered employees who claim a violation of veterans employment and reemployment rights may also seek a remedy outside of the CAA procedures, as explained in the section on Procedural Rules.)

Remedies available for violations of each CAA section are described in the summary of that section. In addition, in a proceeding under any section of the CAA, attorney's fees, expert fees, and certain other costs may be awarded, and interest shall be available to compensate for delay in payment. No civil penalties or punitive damages may be awarded for any claims under the CAA.


This Manual is meant to assist in a general understanding of the current law relating to the Congressional Accountability Act. It does not constitute the Office of Compliance and its Board of Directors' official definitive interpretation of specific factual or legal questions. Employing offices or individuals with particular questions should consult the Congressional Accountability Act (2 U.S.C. §§ 1301 et seq.), and the regulations issued under the Act, which are found throughout this Manual.

 

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