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Harassment and discrimination cases rise on Capitol Hill

By Ted Barrett, Senior Congressional Producer
updated 7:34 PM EDT, Thu October 18, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Claims involved discrimination, harassment and hostile work environment
  • Report compared complaints between 2007 and 2011
  • Number of cases about retaliation, intimidation, or reprisals also went up

Washington (CNN) -- The number of harassment and discrimination complaints by congressional employees rose sharply over the past five years, according to a new report.

The congressional Office of Compliance review showed that 142 people claimed discrimination, harassment, and hostile work environments in 2011 compared to 52 in 2007.

Complaints covered race, sex, gender or pregnancy. There were also complaints about physical or mental disabilities.

The number of cases about retaliation, intimidation, or reprisals also went up.

The government paid $461,366 in settlements and awards last year to resolve 23 complaints, the report said.

There are currently about 30,000 congressional employees in Washington and around the country.

More than half of the complaints were filed by employees of the Capitol Police.

The report is designed to inform Congress about whether workplace reforms it mandated in the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 are taking hold.

That law was designed to make Congress comply with the same requirements covering private sector employers in terms of discrimination, accessibility, and safety.

For people with disabilities, the report found the Capitol campus is hostile in a different way.

Inspections conducted about two years ago discovered there were 154 barriers to accessing the three Capitol House office buildings.

Inspectors also looked at six restrooms in the Senate and House office buildings and found none of them complied with current requirements for disability access.

On safety, inspectors found more than 13,000 safety hazards around the Capitol complex in 2005 and 2006. That number dropped to 5,400 in 2009 and 2010, the most recent year for available figures, according to the report.

The report cites concerns about fire safety in particular.

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