Press Releases

Chairman Nadler Statement for Hearing on "Workplace Protections for Federal Judiciary Employees: Flaws in the Current System and the Need for Statutory Change"

Washington, March 17, 2022

Washington, D.C. - Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) delivered the following opening statement, as prepared, during a Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet hearing on "Workplace Protections for Federal Judiciary Employees: Flaws in the Current System and the Need for Statutory Change:"

"Thank you, Chairman Johnson, for holding this important hearing, and for leading this Subcommittee’s ongoing efforts to investigate the persistent problem of harassment and discrimination in the federal judiciary and explore what Congress can do to address it.  

"The United States Courts are supposed to be a pillar of our democracy, built on justice and fairness.  But it is becoming increasingly obvious that there is a crack in that foundation.

"While courts are charged with dispensing justice to the litigants before them, judiciary employees who are victims of harassment and discrimination are too often kept quiet—shut out of the very courtrooms they work so hard to support—and forced into byzantine internal processes that effectively deny them the most basic procedural rights.  It frequently seems that the courts’ internal processes work to the benefit of the accused rather than the safety of the accuser.

"Judiciary employees are virtually alone among employees of both the public and private sectors in being carved out from certain protections of the foundational civil-rights laws.  Racial discrimination, age discrimination, disability discrimination, religious discrimination, gender discrimination, and sexual harassment—all of these and more are prohibited by federal statutes that are backed by the strength and certainty of federal court litigation.

"An employee who has been victimized and who sues a harasser or abuser in court has the right to discovery—inspecting documents and examining witnesses—as well as the right to a neutral, disinterested arbiter to hear and resolve the dispute.  These are only a handful of the many rights inherent to litigation that are meant to ensure plaintiffs’ meaningful participation in the investigation and adjudication of their claims.  These rights protect victims of discrimination and harassment and encourage the kinds of reporting and transparency that can identify hostile workplaces and stop patterns of abuse. 

"Unfortunately, judiciary employees are guaranteed none of these rights.  Employees of the third branch have no assurance that their harassment or discrimination claims will be addressed, and their harms redressed, in the same manner as nearly every other American worker.

"Fortunately, Congress can take action.  We did so in 1995 and again in 2018, when we closed the loopholes that exempted employees in our own branch from the same statutes.  The judiciary should have been included in those efforts—but such reform faced strong resistance from the leadership of the courts at the time, opposition that has endured for nearly three decades.

"Meanwhile, the need to extend these basic protections to judicial branch employees becomes more urgent all the time.  As this Subcommittee’s 2020 hearing exposed, harassment and discrimination remain serious problems within the judicial branch.

"Even more concerning, these problems have persisted notwithstanding the judiciary’s attempts to address them with changes to its internal human resources policies—polices that are currently the only recourse of judicial-branch employees when they have been victims of harassment or discrimination.

"That is why Congress must extend to them the protections of federal civil-rights laws.  What the judiciary is doing is not working, and Congress must intervene.

"Today we will hear from a diverse panel of experts, advocates, and whistleblowers, all of whom have longstanding experience with the judiciary and the workplace misconduct suffered by judiciary employees.  We will also hear from representatives of the judiciary, and I appreciate hearing their perspective.

"To the witnesses who are appearing today at their personal and professional risk, I want to thank you for your determination, your integrity, and your commitment to fair and equal justice. 

"Today’s hearing will serve as yet another piece of necessary labor toward maintaining the integrity and the independence of our third branch.

"But our work is not done, and we will keep working to give judicial branch employees the rights and protections they need and deserve.

"Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I yield back the balance of my time."