Introduction of the District of Columbia Courts and Public Defender Service Employment Non-Discrimination Act

Floor Speech

Date: April 25, 2022
Location: Washington, DC

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Ms. NORTON. Madam Speaker, today, I introduce the District of Columbia Courts and Public Defender Service Employment Non- Discrimination Act, which would apply the District of Columbia Human Rights Act of 1977 (DCHRA) to employees of the local D.C. courts and of the D.C. Public Defender Service (PDS). In February, the D.C. Court of Appeals held in Robertson v. District of Columbia that the DCHRA, which protects employees of the D.C. government and of private employers from discrimination, does not apply to employees of the local D.C. courts. The court has not ruled on the applicability of the DCHRA to PDS employees.

The local D.C. courts and PDS are unique entities, and they sometimes fall through the regulatory cracks. They are neither federal nor D.C. government entities, though both were created and are funded by Congress, and their employees are treated as federal employees for some employee benefits. This bill would ensure that their employees have comprehensive protections from and remedies for employment discrimination.

While employees of the local D.C. courts and of PDS are protected by federal anti-discrimination laws, the DCHRA provides much broader protections and remedies for employees than federal anti-discrimination laws.

While the D.C. Council may have the authority to pass such a bill itself, only Congress has the clear authority to do so, given the express limitations in the D.C. Home Rule Act on the Council's authority to legislate on matters affecting the local D.C. courts, and given that Congress has generally served as the legislative body for PDS.

I urge my colleagues to support this important bill.

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