Federal employees file lawsuit over shutdown

Attorney: "They'll get no paycheck when the next payday comes around, it’s just devastating."

Paul and Jordana
January 01, 2019 - 6:19 pm

USA Today

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As the partial government shutdown continues, some federal employees have filed a lawsuit against the government over being required to work without pay. Attorney Heidi Burakiewicz is representing those workers and told Paul and Jordana that the government is violating the Fair Labor Standards Act.

“Right now there are approximately 420,000 federal employees who are  deemed essential who are affected by the shutdown who are continuing to go to work day in and day out and they’re not getting paid.”

Burakiewicz says their primary goal is to get federal workers paid.

“As far as our goal, what we all want is for the shutdown to end so these workers can get back to work and know when they’re going to get their next paycheck.”

Yes, in past shutdowns, federal employees received back-pay after the government was re-opened, but that doesn’t help families in the moment who rely on that pay.

“[There are> families who’ve had medical problems that have depleted their life savings,” Burakiewicz said, “They’re living paycheck to paycheck through no fault of their own. And getting a partial paycheck, or if this continues they’ll get no paycheck when the next payday comes around, it’s just devastating.”

But don’t these workers know what they’re signing up for when they take jobs with the federal government?

 “The FLSA sets the minimum threshold for worker protections in this country and it applies to every employer in the country including the United States of America,” said Burakiewicz, “so no employee thinks they’re getting this job and they might have to go through a period of time where they won’t get paid. No one agrees to that.”

Paul and Jordana asked if there was a way to make sure “essential” workers won’t be required to work without pay in the future.

“In 2013 Congress passed, and the White House signed the Pay Our Military Act so that all military personnel as well as the civilians who support the military would continue to get paid on time for the work they were doing during the shutdown,” Burakiewicz said, “Certainly if that legislation was passed in 2013 for the military and related civilian employees, they could have passed that legislation for the rest of the civilian workforce. So certainly passing legislation in the future would be a step in the right direction.”

Hear the entire interview here: