Staff Rights Overview
Below is a condensed version of this topic. For complete guidance please refer to the House Ethics Manual, Chapter 7 on staff rights and duties.
The House has adopted specific rules and regulations governing the employment relationship. In addition, the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995, the first law passed by the 104th Congress, applies the rights and protections of 12 civil rights, labor, and other workplace laws to employees of the legislative branch of the government.1 This chapter covers the laws, rules, and standards concerning:
- Restrictions against discrimination in hiring and compensation;
- “Kickback” schemes and other illegal hiring, firing, and compensation practices;
- Regulations on employment and compensation, including lump sum payments;
- Guidelines affecting interns, fellows, volunteers, and detailees; and
The specific duties of House employees, as well as the terms and conditions of their employment, have traditionally been within the discretion of the employing Member or committee.2 However, because employees of the House are paid from funds of the United States Treasury to perform public duties, certain restrictions apply to their employment. For example, the Code of Official Conduct (House Rule XXIII) instructs Members and officers to retain no one on their staff “who does not perform official duties for the offices of the employing authority commensurate with the compensation he receives” (House Rule XXIII, clause 8).6 These duties include assisting the Members in their official responsibilities3 and working on official committee business.4 But they do not include performing nonofficial, personal, or campaign duties.5
1 See Congressional Accountability Act of 1995, Pub. L. 104-1, 109 Stat. 3 (1996) (codified at 2 U.S.C. § 1301 et seq.).
2 Some House employees, generally those under the employ of an officer of the House, will be subject to the House Employees Position Classification Act (2 U.S.C. §§ 291-303) and regulations on applicable employment standards issued by the Committee on House Administration.
3 See 2 U.S.C § 57b(a)-(b). During each session of Congress, each Member gets a single allowance, known as the Members’ Representational Allowance (“MRA”) to conduct official and representational duties. The Clerk Hire Allowance, the Official Expenses Allowance, and Official Mail Allowance have all been merged into the MRA. See also Legislative Branch Appropriations Act, 2008, Pub. L. 110-161, Division H, title I - House of Representatives - Members’ Representational Allowances Including Clerk Hire, Official Expenses of Members, and Official Mail.
4 See House Rule 10, cl. 9(a)(1).
5 See United States v. Rostenkowski, 59 F.3d 1291, 1307-11 (D.C. Cir. 1995), reh’g denied, 68 F.3d 489 (D.C. Cir. 1995); United States v. Diggs, 613 F.2d 988, 994-97, 1002 (D.C. Cir. 1979), cert. denied, 446 U.S. 982 (1980).
6 See also Comm. on House Admin., U.S. House of Representatives Members’ Congressional Handbook (hereinafter “Members’ Handbook”); Comm. on House Admin, U.S. House of Representatives Committees’ Congressional Handbook (hereinafter “Committees’ Handbook”); Code of Ethics for Government Service ¶ 3, H. Con. Res. 175, 85th Cong., 2d Sess., 72 Stat., pt. 2, B12 (1958). The text of the Members’ Handbook and the Committees’ Handbook is available on the Committee on House Administration website.