Lawsuit Claims Architect of the Capitol Retaliated Against Congressional Tunnel Workers
2O Corporate Crime Reporter 41, October 17, 2006

Ten workers who service the utility tunnels beneath the U.S. Capitol complex will file a
whistleblower complaint tomorrow against their employer, the Architect of the Capitol.

The lawsuit alleges that the workers were subjected to repeated retaliation and a hostile work environment after they wrote about their working conditions and environmental hazards to several members of Congress and the media earlier this year.

The ten workers maintain the plumbing systems that provide steam and chilled water to Congress, the Library of Congress, the Supreme Court, and other federal buildings.

Frustrated by the lack of response after years of raising their concerns up the chain of command, the workers wrote a letter to three U.S. senators and one representative appealing for help.

Not long thereafter, several of the workers began attending Senate Appropriations Committee hearings and speaking to the press.

The workers say that the Architect of the Capitol then began a campaign of retaliation against the crew.

The workers allege that hazardous working conditions have existed in the tunnels for decades.

In 2000, the Architect of the Capitol was cited for violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

These violations included the creation of an unsafe working environment due to falling slabs of concrete, the lack of a communications system to broadcast emergency information, and the lack of emergency exits in time of evacuation.

The workers are most concerned about their exposure to asbestos.

"One client, who was 33 at the time of the medical examination, was told by a doctor that he had the lungs of someone over 100 years old," said Joanne Royce a lawyer for the workers. "These workers were ignored, suppressed, and clearly retaliated against in violation of the Congressional Accountability Act. Someone must be held responsible."

Royce works at the Government Accountability Project in Washington, D.C.

Royce said that OSHA sent a memo to the Architect of the Capitol in 2000 urging the architect to “take action to prevent tunnel workers from breathing airborne asbestos."



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