Above the Law


Over the last six decades, Congress has passed a host of laws regulating how Americans do business with one another. With allegedly noble goals, Congress has ordered companies to provide workers with 60 days' notice of mass layoffs and to notify communities if hazardous chemicals are being used. It has banned discrimination based on race, sex, religion, age, pregnancy, and physical handicaps. It has dictated standards for safe working conditions and prescribed minimum wages. And it has exempted itself from this entire lot of laws.

Laws from Which Congress Exempts Itself

Social Security Act of 1933* (requires workers and employers to pay into the Social Security trust fund)

National Labor Relations Act of 1935 (gives workers the right to unionize)

Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (sets minimum wages and maximum working hours for certain sectors of the economy)

Minimum Wage Act of 1938 (mandates minimum wages for most workers)

Equal Pay Act of 1963 (forbids discrimination in salaries based upon race)

Civil Rights Act of 1964 (forbids discrimination based on race)

Freedom of Information Act of 1967 (opens up many government documents to the public)

Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (mandates safe working conditions)

Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972 (forbids discrimination in hiring based upon race, color; sex, national origin, or religion)

Title IX of the Higher Education Act of 1972 (covers educational opportunities for women)

Privacy Act of 1974

Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (requires government buildings to be accessible to the handicapped)

Age Discrimination Act Amendments of 1975 (forbids discrimination based upon age)

Ethics in Government Act of 1978 (mandates certain standards of conduct for executive branch employees)

Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1988 (the "Grove City Law")

* Starting in 1983, new legislators and congressional employees were covered by Social Security, but incumbents maintained their exemption.

Source: The Imperial Congress, edited by Gordon S. Jones and John A. Marini