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U.S. Courts Oppose Harassment Shield Bill for Judiciary Workers

Aug. 26, 2021, 1:22 PM

The federal judiciary announced its opposition to legislation that would give its workers the same antidiscrimination rights and whistleblower protections as other federal employees.

“Unfortunately, the bill fails to recognize the robust safeguards that have been in place within the Judiciary to protect Judiciary employees, including law clerks, from wrongful conduct in the workplace, including protections against discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and abusive conduct,” Roslynn Mauskopf, secretary to the Judicial Conference and director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, the agency that assists federal courts with non-judicial business, wrote in a letter to lawmakers on Wednesday.

Provisions of the bill (H.R. 4827, S. 2553) introduced last month in both chambers would apply the same civil rights laws that already protect private- and government- sector workers to federal judiciary employees, and would give them the same protection against whistleblower retaliation that other federal employees have.

The bill would also establish a workplace misconduct prevention program overseen by a newly created Commission on Judicial Integrity. A new special counsel for equal employment opportunity would investigate workplace misconduct complaints.

“It is disappointing that a bill encompassing such a significant overhaul of the oversight, supervision, and management of the Judicial Branch of government was introduced without input from the Judicial Branch,” Mauskopf wrote.

Mauskopf told lawmakers the bill “interferes with the internal governance of the Third Branch” and would impose “intrusive requirements on Judicial Conference procedures.” “For all these reasons, the Judicial Conference of the United State opposes the bill,” Mauskopf said.

Mauskopf said the federal judiciary “has been and remains committed to an exemplary workplace for all Judicial Branch employees” and has taken “numerous steps” designed to “foster a safe and respectful workplace.”

House Judiciary chair Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), who co-sponsored by the bill, said last month that, “the federal Judiciary has failed to take effective steps to protect their employees from harassment, discrimination, retaliation, and other misconduct.”

—With Madison Alder

To contact the reporter on this story: Seth Stern in Washington at sstern@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Crawley at jcrawley@bloomberglaw.com