WASHINGTON — Last May, Rep. Pramila Jayapal introduced the Paycheck Recovery Act, aimed at curbing layoffs during the pandemic by having the federal government pay people’s salaries. Publicly, Jayapal contended that passing the bill was a matter of survival for workers. But privately, former staffers said, the lawmaker acted very differently.
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.