She's one of Congress's leading progressives -- but not in her own office, staffers say

In November 2020, she laid off two staffers without severance, two people familiar with the incident told BuzzFeed News. Chris Evans, a spokesperson for Jayapal, said the decision to consolidate was made to “best utilize” the office’s resources, and the staffers were given six weeks’ notice. But one staff member who was told they were being laid off was invited to reapply for a new job in the office that would consolidate the two roles, those familiar said. The staffer was required to go through the full application process, despite the job being nearly identical to the one they had been laid off from. And then, without advance warning, they found out in an all-hands meeting that they did not get the job. The staffers who were let go declined to provide comment for this story.

The incident upset at least four staffers in the office who spoke with BuzzFeed News. It was, they said, one of many instances in which Jayapal’s interactions with her employees have run counter to the public persona she’s built for herself.

Despite the fact that Jayapal is one of the highest-profile progressives in DC and the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, 14 former staffers from throughout her nearly five years in Congress describe a dysfunctional and volatile workplace. There is, they said, a serious disconnect between how she talks about workers’ rights and how she treats her own staff. The conversations with former staff members, all granted anonymity to speak candidly due to the insular nature of Capitol Hill and fears of retaliation, reveal an especially harsh office with a boss whose treatment of workers runs contrary to the public expectations she has set for others.

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