Office of Congressional Workplace Rights:

Using Key Management Practices Would Help to Fully Implement Statutory Requirements

GAO-20-222: Published: Dec 30, 2019. Publicly Released: Dec 30, 2019.

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Yvonne D. Jones
(202) 512-6806
jonesy@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

The Office of Congressional Workplace Rights enforces fair employment and occupational safety and health rules for over 30,000 employees in the legislative branch. Due to heightened awareness of workplace sexual harassment, Congress passed a 2018 law requiring the office to revise the process for resolving discrimination and harassment claims.

Other requirements included

creating an online option for filing claims

creating a permanent records program

conducting workplace climate surveys

educating employees on their workplace rights

Our 6 recommendations are to help the office better implement these and other requirements of the law.

U.S. Capitol

U.S. Capitol

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Yvonne D. Jones
(202) 512-6806
jonesy@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

What GAO Found

The Office of Congressional Workplace Rights' (OCWR) mission is to effectively implement and enforce the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 (CAA), as amended in 2018 by the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 Reform Act (Reform Act). OCWR has implemented three of the four Reform Act requirements that generally became effective June 19, 2019, as shown below. Three other Reform Act requirements—track and report data and assessments, conduct a workplace climate survey, and educate and assist legislative branch offices—are in progress.

Implementation Status of Reform Act Requirements Generally Effective June 19, 2019

Requirement

Statusa

Manage changes to the Administrative Dispute Resolution process

Completed

Appoint or designate confidential advisor

Completed

Create a secure electronic claims reporting systemb

Completed

Establish and maintain a program for the permanent retention of its records

Not completed

Source: GAO analysis of OCWR information and the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 Reform Act, Public Law No. 115-397 (2018). | GAO-20-222

aGAO obtained updates on implementation status as of October 9, 2019.

bIn 2020, GAO will issue two reports on OCWR's cybersecurity practices. The reports will discuss the extent to which OCWR has implemented security controls for its electronic claims reporting system.

OCWR has incorporated some key management practices when implementing requirements, such as managing risks associated with appointing a confidential advisor. However, opportunities exist to further incorporate key management practices in OCWR's work. For example:

  • Addressing risks . OCWR has not yet developed policies and procedures to address the risks associated with permanently retaining sensitive records, such as ensuring they remain confidential when stored in multiple locations.
  • Measuring performance . OCWR has not established measurable performance targets and milestones or related performance measures. Doing so would allow OCWR to determine if it is making progress toward its long-term goals and better communicate with congressional and other stakeholders about its progress.
  • Monitoring effectiveness . OCWR routinely conducts educational activities, such as holding brown bag events and online training, and performs a variety of outreach activities. OCWR has new opportunities every 2 years to collect data through the workplace climate survey on the extent to which legislative branch employees are aware of OCWR's services and their rights under the CAA.

GAO found that OCWR implemented most recommendations from a 2004 GAO report examining OCWR's management controls. GAO also found that OCWR later stopped implementing a recommendation related to information technology (IT) planning, including ensuring that it obtained necessary IT skills. Without IT strategic planning, including recruiting and retaining staff with mission-critical IT skills, OCWR may be less able to carry out its strategic initiatives.

Why GAO Did This Study

OCWR is an independent, non-partisan office that administers and enforces various provisions related to fair employment and occupational safety and health within the legislative branch. Responding to concerns about sexual harassment in the workplace, Congress passed the Reform Act in 2018, which expanded worker protections and overhauled the process for resolving workplace claims, including claims relating to discrimination and harassment. The act also required OCWR to create a secure, electronic claims system and appoint a confidential advisor to assist claimants, among other requirements.

The Reform Act includes a provision for GAO to review OCWR's management practices. This report examines (1) the status of OCWR's efforts to address new requirements in the Reform Act; (2) how OCWR is incorporating key management practices to implement the new requirements; and (3) the extent to which OCWR implemented recommendations from a related 2004 GAO report.

GAO reviewed documentation on OCWR's processes, interviewed officials from OCWR and selected legislative branch offices, and assessed how OCWR's actions aligned with key organizational change management practices that GAO identified and key project management practices from the Project Management Institute.

What GAO Recommends

GAO is making six recommendations to OCWR to better incorporate key management practices as it implements requirements, and to improve its strategic planning. OCWR agreed with GAO's recommendations.

For more information, contact Yvonne D. Jones at (202) 512-6806 or jonesy@gao.gov.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Executive Director of OCWR, in collaboration with relevant managers, should establish a policy that requires a schedule of tasks to be developed, documented, and updated throughout the lifetime of IT system projects. (Recommendation 1)

    Agency Affected: Office of Congressional Workplace Rights

  2. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Executive Director of OCWR should identify and assess risks in establishing and maintaining a permanent records retention program, and develop policies and procedures to ensure that risks are properly addressed. (Recommendation 2)

    Agency Affected: Office of Congressional Workplace Rights

  3. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Executive Director of OCWR should identify desired performance results, develop performance measures that demonstrate the degree to which the desired results were achieved, and report progress toward those results in OCWR's annual reports. (Recommendation 3)

    Agency Affected: Office of Congressional Workplace Rights

  4. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Executive Director of OCWR should collect relevant data through a survey or other mechanisms, and use the information to evaluate the effectiveness of education and outreach efforts and the extent to which they are reaching all covered legislative branch populations. (Recommendation 4)

    Agency Affected: Office of Congressional Workplace Rights

  5. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Executive Director of OCWR should integrate IT planning and implementation into the agency's strategic planning process. (Recommendation 5)

    Agency Affected: Office of Congressional Workplace Rights

  6. Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Executive Director of OCWR should incorporate key strategic human capital management practices, such as developing strategies to recruit and retain staff with mission-critical skills, into the strategic planning process. (Recommendation 6)

    Agency Affected: Office of Congressional Workplace Rights

 

Explore the full database of GAO's Open Recommendations »

Oct 10, 2019

Oct 2, 2019

Sep 25, 2019

Sep 11, 2019

Aug 15, 2019

Jul 30, 2019

May 23, 2019

Apr 29, 2019

Apr 10, 2019

Mar 14, 2019

Looking for more? Browse all our products here