A group of federal employees who worked without pay during the partial government shutdown last month are suing over alleged damages, claiming violations of federal labor law.
The lawsuit accuses the government of violating the Fair Labor Standards Act by not paying employees who worked during the shutdown on their normal pay schedule. Even if they were paid later on, the plaintiffs allege, the government still owes them additional damages under federal law.
The federal workers filed suit Oct. 24 in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. On Nov. 1, Judge Susan Braden put the case on hold, asking the U.S. Department of Justice to provide information on proposed legislation in Congress dealing with back-pay for federal workers. The case was reassigned to Judge Patricia Campbell-Smith.
The shutdown began Oct. 1 after Congress failed to pass a budget for the new fiscal year. The impasse ended Oct. 16. During the shutdown, employees deemed "essential" had to continue working but weren't paid until after the shutdown ended.
The plaintiffs are employees of the Bureau of Prisons, but they filed suit on behalf of all federal workers who were "essential" during the shutdown.
Heidi Burakiewicz, a partner at the Washington class action and employment firm Mehri & Skalet, is lead counsel for the plaintiffs. A spokesman for the Justice Department declined to comment.
The lawsuit doesn't say how much money the plaintiffs are seeking. According to the complaint, the case could affect about 1.3 million employees who were "essential" during the shutdown.