WASHINGTON, DC - Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal of Washington’s 7th Congressional District has built a reputation around being a champion for workers’ rights – but a blistering report from BuzzFeed News suggests the leading Progressive has fostered a toxic workplace that drove some staffers to seek therapy.
The article cites 14 former staffers who allege that Jayapal’s public persona runs counter to who she is as a boss.
"There is, they said, a serious disconnect between how she talks about workers’ rights and how she treats her own staff," BuzzFeed reported.
None of the former staffers were named in the article.
"In interviews with BuzzFeed News, they described Jayapal as a boss who berated staff in front of others, demanded grueling hours, and maintained an office culture marked by constantly changing expectations and little tolerance for error, to the extent that some staffers sought therapy and questioned their careers in public service," according to the BuzzFeed report. "Since taking office, Jayapal has had one of the highest staff turnover rates in the House, due in large part, former employees said, to the unrealistic standards she sets."
A spokesperson for Congresswoman Jayapal told Q13 News that the report is reflective of a disturbing and discriminatory trend.
"As we proudly work alongside one of the less than 100 women of color to have ever served in Congress, our team is fully aware of the fact that women of color are often unjustly targeted, regularly held to higher standards than men, and always put under a sexist microscope," the spokesperson wrote.
The spokesperson took issue with some of the assertions in the article – including claims that suggest the office’s high turnover – are evidence of a negative environment.
"We are proud of the fact that, following their service to our Seattle community, staffers have moved on to serve in some of the highest levels of the Biden-Harris administration, elected office, local government, senior roles on Capitol Hill, issue and political campaigns, and the leadership teams of national organizations," the spokesperson wrote.
While turnover is not uncommon in the high-stress world of Capitol Hill, the frequent job openings in Jayapal’s office did raise eyebrows for some.
"I don’t think any of us were particularly surprised by the article," a staffer in another office told Q13 News on the condition of anonymity. "When you see the same jobs in the same office posted again and again, that’s a huge red flag on the Hill."
Not all former staffers of the Congresswoman agree with the picture the article painted.
One staffer, who has since left the office, said it felt unfair for the story to single out one politician.
"I didn’t see anything in there where I was like, 'Pramila stepped way beyond the norm on Capitol Hill.' I’ve heard about the same kinds of things in other high-pressure offices."
The former staffer, who declined to be named, said Jayapal is highly ambitious and determined to make a difference. As a result, her office is no doubt more demanding than others.
"I think there were mistakes that were made from time to time in management of the office, but I don’t chalk that up to maliciousness or abuse or anything like that. To me, these things are unfortunately pretty normal and common and I think that should change," the former staffer said. " The story will hopefully be used by that staff and others to make that happen."
"The larger issue is one that needs to be worked on. All of these high-pressure campaigns and offices need to do a lot more thinking and planning about how to manage young staff, or staff in general that have expectations of fair treatment and respect."
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