The House voted today to give its employees basic job rights, at least temporarily, briefly shedding its share of the “last plantation” reputation Congress has carried for years.
The resolution, which takes effect in 30 days but expires when the 101st Congress convenes, is expected to be replaced at some point next year with legislation applicable to both the House and Senate. It was passed 408 to 12 and Senate action is not needed.
Congress, for reasons revolving partly around the separation-of-powers doctrine, has largely exempted itself from laws it enacts involving workers’ rights for federal agencies and the private sector--contributing to its reputation as “the last plantation.”
It has a longstanding objection to letting a judicial or executive branch agency have a hand in its affairs.
The resolution bars discrimination in House offices and in hiring decisions, on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, marital or parental status, handicap or age. Members could employ only people from their district or state and could take an applicant’s political affiliation into account.
A three-step appeal process is available for employees who think they have been discriminated against, including a mediation process, followed by a hearing and, if the issue is not resolved, a final review by an eight-member, bipartisan panel that would include at least four House members.
Impetus for the legislation grew after the suicide of Tom Pappas, a top aide to Rep. Roy Dyson (D-Md.). After his death came revelations that Pappas had made extreme demands on Dyson’s young male staffers--including a prohibition on dating--and had unorthodox recruiting methods.