She provided 16 examples of AOC initiatives, including the installation of ADA-compliant ramps in Rayburn and Longworth and replacement of “more than 8,100 square yards of sidewalk across the Capitol campus over the past two years to enhance accessibility and safety.”
Malecki did not offer a timeline for when the AOC would address the specific concerns outlined in the OOC’s report or whether it would appeal to appropriators for the necessary funds to do so.
Six-term Rep. James Langevin (D-R.I.), the first quadriplegic to serve in Congress, said that he has been pleased with the AOC’s efforts to improve accessibility on Capitol Hill but that he’d be speaking with stakeholders to address the issues outlined in the OOC report.
“Congress should be a model in all areas of ADA compliance, and I am going to continue to work to ensure the Capitol complex meets and exceeds the goals whenever and wherever possible,” Langevin told Roll Call.
Workplace Complaints Continue
In addition to health and safety inspections, the OOC enforces discrimination-free work environments for select legislative branch agencies. The OOC report for fiscal 2011 shows that tensions persist in many of the offices it oversees.
As in the past, the most common alleged violation in fiscal 2011 related to discrimination and harassment based on race, sex, age and disability. The number was higher in fiscal 2011: 196 alleged violations. In fiscal 2010, that number was 168, and in fiscal 2009, it was 136.
Also as in previous years, complaints from agencies occurred in numbers disproportionate to those from Congressional offices. Of the 142 formal complaints filed with the OOC in fiscal 2011, just 13 originated in the House and two began in the Senate.
OOC Executive Director Tamara Chrisler told Roll Call that there were a few reasons to explain the discrepancies.
As for why the number of complaints was rising, “they could mean a lot of things,” including a lack of education and communication, she said. Budget cuts could also be a factor, where “practices and policies have to change to incorporate these cuts … and that may result in a perspective of things being unfair,” Chrisler said.
Fewer complaints from Congressional offices, Chrisler continued, could have to do with the transient nature of those jobs as compared with those in agencies.
“A Member’s office staff may accept certain things because they are only going to be there for a year or two and may not feel the need to complain,” she said. “That may not be the view of someone who has vested 20, 30 years on the job and it isn’t as easy for them to just walk away.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.