Federal Employee Shutdown Advice

By John V. Berry, Esq., www.berrylegal.com

We have have been asked about the federal government shutdown over the past few weeks by federal employees, and those that are affected by it. We have represented thousands of federal employees over the years.

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Many are understandably affected and concerned over the pay issue. It is clear that many federal employees, given the expensive nature of where most federal offices are located, depend heavily on each paycheck. As a result, many have to plan their finances carefully. If the shutdown goes on for much longer, More action may be needed. We have put together some thoughts on tips for federal employees.

Here are some thoughts.

  1. Backpay Should Eventually be Authorized: While there is no guarantee, Congress has usually authorized back pay for the pay lost by federal employees, whether or not the individual has been considered essential and actually worked during the time in question. This, however, is never certain given the current political environment.
  2. Unemployment Compensation: If a federal employee’s financial situation is very tight, consider applying for unemployment insurance if need be with the state that you live in. It is hard to determine how long the shutdown will last, but if it goes on for some time many federal employees may be eligible for unemployment compensation.  There is a reasonable chance that unemployment benefits may be granted.  However, if backpay is authorized, a federal employee may have to pay back unemployment funds received.  A good link about the unemployment compensation issue is attached here.
  3. Outside Employment: A federal employee should consider outside employment if absolutely necessary.  If there is a prolonged shutdown, which is too hard to tell at this point, a federal employee can consider taking on outside employment. It is important, however, to get permission to do so, in advance, before working from the agency.  There should be an ethics officer still available to provide guidance or approval still working to consult with.
  4. Essential Employee Overtime: For those federal employees still working because they have been considered essential, you may wish to consider any overtime compensation worked. There is an argument that the federal government is liable for double damages and attorney fees under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) for not timely paying overtime compensation timely (each workweek), despite their budget concerns.
  5. Sit Tight: This is a difficult situation for many of our clients.  However, we have reason to believe that the situation will be resolved relatively soon. The difficult part of this situation is the fact that many federal employees and their families will be subject to extreme stress until it is resolved.
  6. New Employment: Nothing prohibits a federal employee from seeking and accepting new employment during the shutdown. If that occurs, it is important to make sure that the federal employee has provided a letter of resignation, with the date of resignation established and that the departure has been well thought out.

Conclusion

If a federal employee needs legal advice, then we can assist them in their employment matters.  Please contact our office at 703-668-0070 or at www.berrylegal.com to schedule a consultation. Please also visit and like us on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

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