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Discrimination complaints increase at U.S. Capitol

Congress is the author of all the federal antidiscrimination statutes, such as the primary law that prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, is Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII).

In addition, there are the other antidiscrimination laws, such as the ADEA, the ADA, the EPA, the Rehabilitation Act and the Civil Rights Act of 1991. Oddly, for Congress's own employees and some of those who work in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., most of these laws did not directly apply.

Instead, capitol employees are protected by the Congressional Accountability Act, which wasn't enacted until 1995. That law applies most of federal anti-discrimination acts to employees of the House, Senate, Capitol Police and other departments in the capitol. The Office of Compliance (OOC) is responsible for investigating complaints of discrimination for these employees.

The OOC reported this year that complaints had increased by 35 percent from 2011. The largest number of complaints stemmed "from discrimination and harassment based on a protected trait such as sex, race, age, and/or disability." The next most frequent complaint involved retaliation for whistleblowing.

The majority of the complaints came from members of the Capitol Police, but some were from the offices of lawmakers or congressional committee staff.

While it may seem somewhat ironic that the very body responsible for creating the anti-discrimination laws could itself engage in discriminatory practices, but it demonstrates that no workplace is immune from discrimination.

Discrimination claims are complex, because, as the list above suggests, they can involve multiple laws, depending on the form of discrimination alleged.

Also, depending on where you are employed, different laws may apply, so speaking with an employment discrimination attorney can be helpful in determining which laws may apply to your specific situation.

Source: FederalDaily, "Workplace discrimination complaints grow on Capitol Hill," October 24, 2012

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