Rep. Pramila Jayapal, the Washington state Democrat, was accused in a published report Monday of running a ‘miserable’ workplace despite a public persona of being a strong progressive force for workers across the country.
Buzzfeed News, ran a long-form article about Jayapal’s apparent reputation among ex-staffers in Washington, D.C. The report cited 14 former workers from her office who worked there over the past five years. They described an “especially harsh office with a boss whose treatment of workers runs contrary to the public expectations she has set for others,” the report said.
The report– which took three months to produce– pointed to several alleged run-ins between the congresswoman and staffers. She is accused of bringing a new staffer to tears after a House Budget Committee hearing and the report, citing three sources, also said that she once blamed a staffer for her personal weight gain. The staffer was accused of not scheduling enough gym time for her, the report said.
Chris Evans, a Jayapal spokesman, did not immediately respond to an after-hours email from Fox News. He took issue with the “disgustingly sexist rumor” about the weight gain episode and said he could never think of a time that a male representative would face the same scrutiny.
The Buzzfeed report pointed to the cultural shift in workplaces across the U.S. where old standards are no longer acceptable. One needs to look no further than the banking industry and how new employees fought back against the 80-hour workweek.
But one staffer told the website that they understood the old ways of Washington and “worked in some awful environments” but “never worked in a place that has made me so miserable and so not excited for public service as Pramila Jayapal’s office.”
Lilah Pomerance, Jayapal’s chief of staff, seemed to question the premise of the article and told Buzzfeed that women of color “are often unjustly targeted, regularly held to higher standards than their male colleagues, and always put under a sexist microscope.”
The website pointed out that many of the staffers believe in Jayapal’s public message. They did not want the negative press to lessen what they see as the important policies that Jayapal, the head of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, has tried to move forward. But they wanted their stories told.
Jayapal, of course, is not the first politician to face allegations of overseeing a poor work environment.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., was accused in 2019 of mistreating staffers. Some former Klobuchar staffers told the Huff Post that the senator demeaned them and often became cruel, lashing out at their work on emails, calling it “the worst” she has ever seen in her career in politics and sharing the emails with her comments to others who weren’t related to the issue.
The Buzzfeed report pointed out that she has one of the highest staff turnover rates in Congress, but her office said many have moved on to other jobs, including at the White House.
“Many former Jayapal staffers moved on to serve in some of the highest levels of the Biden-Harris administration, elected office, local government, more senior roles on the Hill, issue and political campaigns, and the leadership teams of national organizations that we partner with,” Evans told the website.