1,000 Federal Workers Join Suit Over Shutdown Pay
More than 1,000 “essential” federal employees who had to work during the government shutdown have joined a lawsuit alleging the government owes them money for violating the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Class action plaintiffs firm Mehri & Skalet this week amended its Oct. 24 complaint in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, adding 1,017 workers and requesting that the court authorize notice of the lawsuit be sent to all 1.3 million federal employees who had to work when the government was closed. Partner Heidi Burakiewicz is lead counsel in the case.
The shutdown began Oct. 1 after Congress failed to pass a budget for the new fiscal year. Federal employees deemed "essential" had to continue working but weren't paid until after the shutdown ended Oct. 16.
That violated the Fair Labor Standards Act, the plaintiffs’ lawyers say, because the law requires that employees receive minimum wages and overtime pay on their regularly scheduled paydays.
The first biweekly pay period affected by the government shutdown was Sept. 22 – Oct. 5. While employees received a partial paycheck on their regularly scheduled payday, it did not include money for work performed from Oct. 1 – Oct. 5. (All federal workers were paid retroactively after the government re-opened. )
The plaintiffs in Martin et. al v. United States say they are entitled to “liquidated damages” because they showed up for work but weren’t paid on time. “This is not a windfall for these employees,” according to Mehri & Skalet’s website. “Liquidated damages are intended to compensate employees for the losses they may have suffered as a result of not receiving the proper wages when due.”
The firm argues that liquidated damages will equal the minimum wages the government was required to pay essential employees but did not on their regularly scheduled payday, and double the amount of the overtime that was unpaid on that date.