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.
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.
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.
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.