The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Monday filed a lawsuit against the federal government on behalf of AFGE members and federal employees being forced to work without pay. The lawsuit alleges the federal government is violating the law by requiring some federal employees — those who are considered “essential” — to work without pay during a shutdown.
“Positions that are considered ‘essential’ during a government shutdown are some of the most dangerous jobs in the federal government,” said AFGE’s national president J. David Cox Sr.. “They are frontline public safety positions, including many in law enforcement, among other critical roles.” AFGE is the largest federal employee union, representing 700,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia.
“The harm to federal employees began at the first moment of the shutdown. Hundreds of thousands of federal employees are working under sometimes dangerous conditions, including the plaintiffs who were forced to work overtime without pay,” said Heidi Burakiewicz, partner at Kalijarvi, Chuzi, Newman & Fitch (KCNF DC) — the DC law firm representing AFGE. “Approximately 420,000 federal employees are continuing to work, but don’t know when they will get their next paychecks. This is not an acceptable way for any employer, let alone the U.S. government, to treat its employees. These employees still need to pay childcare expenses, buy gas, and incur other expenses to go to work every day and yet, they are not getting paid. It is a blatant violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act.”
According to a statement from AFGE, the Bureau of Prisons (BOP), and the high security penitentiaries where the named plaintiffs work, USP Hazelton and USP Canaan, “are egregiously understaffed, often requiring employees to work large amounts of overtime in some of the most dangerous prisons in the country.” AFGE says the shutdown and conditions under which the federal government is requiring these employees and others to work puts lives at risk and endangers communities.
After the 2013 shutdown, approximately 25,000 essential federal employees, represented by KCNF DC, sued the government, arguing that the Fair Labor Standards Act requires that all employees, including federal employees, be paid on time for their services. In 2014, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims agreed and, in 2017, the court held further that the employees were entitled to twice their back pay because of the violation.
To read the full text of the lawsuit, click here.