Certain claims of violation of The Congressional Accountability Act (CAA) must go through a mandatory, multi-step dispute resolution process. All employees, including district office staff, must follow established dispute resolution procedures in order to process their claims under the CAA. 

The steps include:

Step 1:  Counseling (required)

Step 2:  Mediation (required)

Step 3:  Administrative Hearing or Civil Action

Step 4:  Appeals

The failure to follow these procedures or to meet established time lines may jeopardize any claims raised under the CAA.

This is only a brief description of the dispute resolution process. Additional information is available in the CAA Handbook, the Congressional Accountability Act and the OOC’s Procedural Rules.

Not all rights applied by the CAA are enforced through the dispute resolution process. The General Counsel of the OOC may bring an enforcement action when violations of safety and health, access to public services and accommodations rights for the disabled, or unfair labor practices are alleged.


Multi-step Process for Dispute Resolution
Step 1:  Counseling

The first formal step in the dispute resolution process is to file a written request for counseling with the OOC. A request for counseling must be made within 180 days after the date of the alleged violation. The formal counseling period normally lasts for 30 days.

During the formal counseling period, an OOC counselor will discuss with an employee the information that gave rise to their concerns, and inform them of their rights under the law. The counselor’s role is not to advocate for the employee but to explain how the law may apply to their circumstances.  A covered employee may designate an individual to represent them at any time during the dispute resolution process.

The Executive Director of the OOC has authority to recommend that employees of the Architect of the Capitol and Capitol Police use their office’s own internal grievance process before first utilizing the CAA’s dispute resolution procedures. If so, this will not count against the time limits available for counseling and mediation with the OOC.

Step 2:  Mediation

If an employee chooses to continue with a claim after the formal counseling period ends, the next step is to request mediation, in writing, within 15 days of receiving notification of the completion of the counseling period. Mediation lasts for 30 days, unless both parties request an extension of time.

The goal of mediation is to allow the parties an opportunity to resolve a dispute promptly and avoid a formal adversarial complaint process.

Upon receipt of a timely request for mediation, the OOC appoints a mediator – a professional trained in dispute resolution – to work with the parties to resolve the matter. The mediator will meet with the parties in a confidential setting to discuss the issues and explore ways to resolve them. Mediated settlements are always voluntary; the mediator has no authority to impose a solution or issue a decision on the merits of a matter.

The advantage of a mediated settlement is that it allows both parties in a dispute to take an active role in reaching a settlement rather than having a judgment imposed upon them by a hearing officer or judge.

Step 3:  Administrative Hearing or Civil Action

If mediation fails to resolve a claim, an employee may either proceed with an administrative hearing or file a lawsuit in Federal district court. Either course of action must be initiated within 90 days (but no sooner than 30 days) from the end of the period of mediation.

Administrative Hearing

An employee who chooses to pursue an administrative hearing after mediation, must file a formal written complaint with the OOC. A copy of the complaint will be served on the employing office, and a hearing officer will be appointed to decide the matter. The employing office has 15 days after receipt to respond to the complaint.

The hearing officer assigned to conduct the hearing may require the parties to exchange information and may issue subpoenas, as needed, to determine the facts of the matters alleged. A hearing officer will normally open an administrative hearing within 60 days after a complaint is filed, and issue a written decision no later than 90 days after the conclusion of the hearing.

Civil Action

If an employee chooses to proceed with a civil action after mediation, the suit will proceed under the rules that normally apply to actions in Federal court. Employees who work on Capitol Hill who choose to file a civil suit after mediation normally must do so with the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. Employees who work outside of the District of Columbia may choose to file suit in the United States District Court where they work. An employee may not file both an administrative complaint and a civil action.

Step 4:  Appeals

Appeal of Administrative Decision

An employee or employing office not satisfied with the final decision of the hearing officer, may request to have the hearing officer’s decision reviewed by the Board of Directors of the OOC. This request must be made within 30 days of the time the hearing officer’s decision is entered into the records of the OOC. After reviewing the arguments from both sides in the dispute, the Board of Directors will issue a written decision.

If either the employee or employing office is dissatisfied with the Board’s decision, they may appealed the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit for further review.

Appeal of U.S. District Court Decision

If the case is brought as a civil action in U.S. District Court, an appeal of the District Court decision would proceed under the rules that normally apply to appeals in Federal court.