Federal Shutdown Pay Crisis: Union Sues Trump Administration

by: The Knowledge Group

January 07, 2019


With President Trump and Congress still at an impasse over funding border wall construction, and as essential employees work through a federal shutdown, the American Federation of Government Employees and the D.C.-based KalijarviChuzi, Newman & Fitch law firm is pursuing legal action in the names of individual plaintiffs and the working employees.

Union’s president J. David Cox blasted the “inhumane” decisions that some 420,000 were instructed to show up for work—for the time being, without pay. A further 380,000 non-essential federal employees are furloughed. Many affected workers are police officers and military veterans.


Union: Trump Administration Not Above the Law

A policy director for AFGE told Hill.TV “the federal government is not above the law” and cannot force people to engage in unpaid work. But Congress needs to approve back pay in the spending bill that opens the government again. In December, the Senate passed legislation for workers’ back pay; the House only introduced legislation.

In the 2013 shutdown, which occurred in the Obama administration, some 800,000 people on the federal payroll were sent home for more than two weeks. Another 1.3 million had to work without knowing when they’d be paid.

The current shutdown is approaching two weeks as Congress opens its new session.


Liquidated Damages Will Take Time

The Fair Standards Labor Act provides for liquidated damages. This means workers who do not receive at least minimum wage and overtime pay on their regular paydays are entitled to double pay.

After a lawsuit, a federal judge ultimately ruled that workers affected during the Obama administration shut down are owed double back pay. Some of those workers are still waiting.

Currently closed agencies include the FTC and the CPSC (though the consumer hotline and employees who guard against “imminent threats to human safety” must keep working). About 4 in 10 FDA employees are furloughed, and the agency cannot accept regulatory submissions with fees for FY 2019 at this time.

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