Government Shutdown Is In Its Second Week…What Does This Mean for the Labor and Employment World?

Contributed by Samantha Esmond

Unless you have been living under a rock, you have probably heard that the federal government has shut down all non-essential services for the first time in seventeen (17) years. As the shutdown is in its second week, the length of the shutdown is still highly unpredictable. Given the fact that the key players in Washington are still pointing fingers (and the blame), it seems more and more likely that the shutdown will be here to stay for days, possibly even weeks.

So, what does this mean for the labor and employment world? Not too much. Even with the shutdown of many key government agencies, employers must continue to comply with all statutory provisions, such as Title VII, ADA, FLSA, and the National Labor Relations Act. However, many “non-essential” government agencies have provided contingency plans explaining how they will operate during the shutdown. A sample of these key agency contingency plans can be accessed here:

  • Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC): Per its contingency plan, “only activities involving the safety of human life or the protection of property will continue.” For example, the EEOC will continue to docket and examine new charges to determine whether prompt judicial action is necessary to protect life or property. Nonetheless, the EEOC will cease the following activities during the shutdown:  (1) staff will not be available to answer questions from the public or to respond to correspondence from the public, (2) the EEOC will continue to accept charges that must be filed in order to preserve the rights of the claimant, such charges will not be investigated, (3) mediations will be cancelled, (4) federal sector hearings will be cancelled, (6) outreach and education events will be cancelled, and (7) FOIA requests will not be processed.
  • Department of Labor (DOL): The majority of employees working for the DOL will be furloughed. Accordingly, many of its programs and services, which are not “critical,” will be impacted. To view the DOL’s contingency plan, click here.
  • National Labor Relations Board (NLRB):  In essence, only such government activities necessary to prevent an imminent threat to the safety of human life or the protection of property may be undertaken. As such, the Office of Inspector General hotline will remain operational during the shutdown; however several services of the NLRB will not be available during the shutdown. The NLRB has updated its website with a link to its contingency plan, which is available here.
  • E-Verify:  E-Verify will NOT be available during the government shutdown and employers will not be able to access their accounts.

Employer Takeaway:  Generally, employers are still obligated to meet all statutory deadlines and continue to comply with all statutory and regulatory requirements during the shutdown. We will continue to monitor the happenings in Washington D.C. and provide updates as this situation develops.