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HARRIS v. OFFICE OF THE ARCHITECT OF THE CAPITOL

July 15, 1998

PATRICIA HARRIS, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
OFFICE OF THE ARCHITECT OF THE CAPITOL, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: SULLIVAN

OPINION & ORDER

 I. BACKGROUND

 In 1996, Congress passed the Congressional Accountability Act (CAA), 2 U.S.C. § 1301 et seq., which made eleven laws, including labor and civil rights statutes, applicable to the legislative branch, with certain limitations and requirements, see, e.g., 2 U.S.C. § 1403 (requiring mediation prior to filing suit); 2 U.S.C. § 1361(c) (prohibiting punitive damages).

 Plaintiffs are "custodial workers" employed by the Office of the Architect of the Capitol. Defendant is the Office of the Architect of the Capitol, which is the "employing office" under the CAA, 2 U.S.C. § 1301(9)(D). Plaintiffs allege that "custodial workers" are overwhelmingly female and that their wages (and wage classification) are lower than "laborers" who are predominantly male. Plaintiffs thus bring this suit alleging violations of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, and the Equal Pay Act (EPA), 29 U.S.C. § 206(d), as applied to defendant through the CAA.

 II. DISCUSSION

 Defendant has moved to dismiss plaintiffs' claims under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). Defendant argues that this Court lacks jurisdiction over plaintiffs' claims because plaintiffs have improperly brought their claims under Title VII and the EPA rather than under the CAA, and also, that plaintiffs failed to exhaust their administrative remedies under the CAA as to their EPA claims.

 A. Lack of Jurisdiction Over Title VII and EPA Claims

 Plaintiffs argue that the effect of the CAA was to extend the jurisdiction of Title VII and EPA and therefore, that plaintiffs may bring claims under Title VII and other statutes in addition to claims under the CAA.

 Defendant, on the other hand, argues that the CAA is the sole statute under which plaintiffs may bring their claims against the legislative branch. Defendant points to the fact that Congress did not amend each of the eleven statutes to extend them to Congress, but rather drafted a new act, the CAA, which incorporated the "rights and protections" of the several acts into the CAA. Moreover, the fact that the CAA has a jurisdiction granting section, see 2 U.S.C. § 1408, *fn1" further supports defendant's argument that the CAA is the sole source of jurisdiction for this Court. The Court agrees with defendant that the purpose of the CAA was to make the several civil rights, labor, and other laws applicable to the legislative branch and therefore, that claims must be brought under the CAA rather than under the individual statutes.

 Therefore, plaintiffs' claims under Title VII and the EPA are hereby DISMISSED without prejudice to asserting claims under the CAA.

 B. Failure to Exhaust Administrative Remedies for EPA claims

 Defendant argues that plaintiffs did not specifically raise § 203 of the CAA, which incorporates the EPA, in their mediation or administrative complaint. Plaintiffs argue that under the CAA procedures an individual need not state all the legal bases for her complaint in her administrative complaint. Plaintiffs point to the form for a "Formal Request for Counseling" which states only "Describe the Conduct Complained of; Including Date(s) and Person(s) Involved"). As an example, plaintiffs attach the "Formal Request for Counseling" by Plaintiff Harris which states

 
The Architect of the Capitol has violated Section 201(a)(1) of the Congressional Accountability Act by arbitrarily and capriciously discriminating against the classification of Custodial Worker--which is primarily held by women--by underpaying this classification.

 Defendant argues that because the complaint specifies § 201 (incorporating Title VII) but does not mention § 203 (incorporating the EPA), plaintiff failed to exhaust her administrative ...


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