More than a dozen former staffers to Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., have accused the progressive congresswoman of overseeing "a dysfunctional and volatile workplace," and mistreating staffers, according to a report from BuzzFeed News.
Staffers, who were not named, claim that Jayapal’s office was "harsh," and described her treatment as contrary to her public persona. The former staffers said that the congresswoman would berate members of staff in front of others, would demand that they work long hours, and said that the office culture involved frequently changing expectations and almost no allowance for failure.
"I’ve worked in bad environments before, and I have worked in some awful environments before for some awful people. I’ve been colleagues with some awful people," said one former Jayapal staffer. "I have never worked in a place that has made me so miserable and so not excited for public service as Pramila Jayapal’s office."
"If you were in Jayapal’s office, people were like, 'You don’t need to say no more' — like, 'We understand' — so there was that reputation," said another source. "For the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus to have that reputation, I just think that’s really sad."
Some staffers reported seeking therapy or considering changing careers after working in Jayapal’s office, according to BuzzFeed, which notes that the congresswoman has one of the highest staff turnover rates in the House.
Lilah Pomerance, the congresswoman’s chief of staff, said in a statement that "Women of color are often unjustly targeted, regularly held to higher standards than their male colleagues, and always put under a sexist microscope."
She said that the claims made by the former staffers were "cherry picked" and included "ugly stereotypes" that were devoid of context.
"Pramila has the absurd task of tackling some of the country’s most urgent problems with the limited resources our system provides. Like all members of Congress, she must decide how much of that burden to place on her staff, and like all members of Congress, she doesn’t always get it right," said another former staffer, who said that they were treated with respect while working in Jayapal’s office. "I believe she is doing the best she can, and hope that any talk around working conditions can help inspire progressive members (and their senior staff) to raise the standard above the status quo."
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