Federal Workers Can Press Back Pay Case Over 2019 Shut Down
WASHINGTON – Thousands of federal employees can proceed with a class act in which they claim they were forced to work without pay during the 35-day partial government shutdown that extended from late 2018 to early 2019.
“The claims brought by plaintiffs in this case are straightforward FLSA minimum wage and overtime claims under the [Fair Labor Standards Act],” Judge Patricia Campbell-Smith of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims said in her ruling issued Tuesday.
Campbell-Smith rejected the government’s claim that it was prohibited from paying employees during the partial shutdown by the Anti-Deficiency Act, which it said, made it a crime to pay the plaintiffs during the five-week lapse in appropriations.
On Tuesday Campbell rejected this assertion, concluding that the budget-focused law doesn’t automatically waive the government’s obligations to make timely payments to employees.
Though the employees were eventually paid, they contend they experienced pain and suffering due to the delay in their getting their paychecks and should be awarded damages.
She did, however, keep the door open to a possible showing by the government that it acted in “good faith” when it failed to pay the workers on time.
“The court declines to rule at this time on the issue of whether the defendant can establish a good faith defense against liability for liquidated damages in this case,” the judge wrote.
Campbell-Smith set a deadline of Jan. 29 for the government to respond to the suit.
The longest shutdown in U.S. history stemmed from an impasse over President Donald Trump’s demand that Congress appropriate more than $5 billion for one of his most high-profile campaign promises — the border wall between the U.S. and Mexico.
If the employees do win the suit, they would each be entitled to the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour for the time they worked, or about $1,160 if they worked the full shutdown period, plus overtime.
The latest developments in the case came as lawmakers on Capitol Hill and the White House try to come up with a new spending plan, at least for the beginning of next year. Congress’s current short-term spending bill expires on Dec. 11.
In The News
SAN DIEGO (AP) — The eruption of COVID-19 last year caused the proportion of people working from home in the U.S. to nearly double, with the shift most pronounced among college graduates and workers in such fields as finance and professional services. The share of employed... Read More
WASHINGTON -- The Senate continued its search Thursday for ways to prevent the kind of devastation brought to U.S. supply chains by COVID-19. Industry executives told a Senate panel the pandemic exposed U.S. dependence on foreign suppliers to keep the lights on for their businesses. As... Read More
As the American economic engines churn back to life, one major hurdle stands in the way of our market renaissance - labor. Businesses, especially low wage, low skill businesses, are having a difficult time finding people to work for them. The consequences of these shortages are... Read More
WASHINGTON (AP) — The owners of restaurants, amusement parks and retail shops, many of them desperate for workers, are sounding an unusual note of gratitude this summer: Thank goodness for teenagers. As the U.S. economy bounds back with unexpected speed from the pandemic recession and customer... Read More
WASHINGTON -- As a deadline approaches for federal departments and agencies to solidify their post-COVID re-entry programs, a group of Justice Department employees is encouraging its bosses to keep at least some telework and other flexibility measures in place permanently. The Biden administration has given the... Read More
WASHINGTON (AP) — In an encouraging burst of hiring, America's employers added 850,000 jobs in June, well above the average of the previous three months and a sign that companies may be having an easier time finding enough workers to fill open jobs. Friday's report from... Read More