Everyone loves a good day off, but when you’re forced to take a day, week, or month off and may not get paid for your forced “vacation,” work may seem more appealing than taking a hit to your pocket book. Unfortunately, for thousands of government workers, going to work is not an option; and their absence will be felt by private employees, especially by those who may be harassed, discriminated, or underpaid.
During the government shutdown, the EEOC and the Department of Labor will only perform a limited number of “nonessential” tasks. Of its 2,164 EEOC employees, only 107 (a mere 5%) will work through the furlough period. According to the agency’s contingency government shutdown plan, the EEOC will continue to accept and process claims of discrimination, with a minimal staff stamping the dates on charges that are mailed in. The charges will not, however, be investigated until funding is restored. As such, the time limits for employees to file a charge of discrimination against their private employer may not be extended due to the shutdown. The EEOC will also continue to litigate lawsuits where a continuance has not been granted and seek injunctive relief in a limited number of circumstances. The agency will not, however, answer or respond to questions or correspondence from the public, investigate charges of discrimination, litigate cases in federal court if an extension has been granted, conduct mediation, participate in outreach programs, process FOIA requests, or update its website. According to its contingency plan, “only activities involving the safety of human life or the protection of property will continue.”
Only 18%, or 2,954 of the 16,304 workers employed by the Department of Labor will work during the shutdown. In the Wage and Hour Division, only 6 of the 1,829 employees will continue working. According to the DOL’s contingency plan, the Wage and Hour Division will keep enough staff on board to “conduct an immediate investigation of any incidents involving serious injury or death of a minor while employed or any transportation accident or any housing violation involving serious injury or death of a farm worker.” All other operations, including investigations concerning worker misclassifications, are suspended.