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
WASHINGTON — The number of unemployment claims filed last week fell to 900,000, a number that remains historically high and suggests the economy still has a long way to go before it fully recovers from the coronavirus pandemic. The Labor Department also reported that 5.1 million... Read More
WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. employers shed jobs last month for the first time since April, cutting 140,00 positions, clear evidence that the economy is faltering as the viral pandemic tightens its grip on consumers and businesses. At the same time, the unemployment rate stayed at 6.7%,... Read More
A group of Google engineers and other workers announced Monday they have formed a union, creating a rare foothold for the labor movement in the tech industry. About 225 employees at Google and its parent company Alphabet are the first dues-paying members of the Alphabet Workers... Read More
WASHINGTON — Labor law is constantly evolving. Early 2020 alone saw changes to federal overtime rules, 21 states increasing their minimum wage provisions, and the Department of Labor finally allowing H-2B job opportunities to be posted to its website. And then COVID-19 hit, and these reforms... Read More
Applications for U.S. state unemployment benefits unexpectedly jumped to the highest level in three months, suggesting the labor market’s recovery is faltering amid the surge in COVID-19 cases and widening business restrictions. Initial jobless claims in regular state programs rose by 23,000 to 885,000 in the... Read More
WASHINGTON — This week, the American Worker Holiday Relief Act was introduced by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I. “With the economy backsliding as COVID-19 cases explode nationwide, Senate Republicans are... Read More