As many have anticipated, the U.S. government today closed a number of its non-essential services. Because of last night’s congressional stalemate over a spending plan and policy differences over the Affordable Care Act, Congress failed to pass a budget. As a result, many key government agencies upon which employers regularly rely are also closed and will remain closed for the duration of the shutdown.
What should employers do if they need to contact these agencies or have matters pending in federal courts? Your Ogletree Deakins attorneys can help you navigate your dealings with federal agencies and courts during this uncertain time. As you consider how the shutdown might affect you, keep in mind that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), to name a few, are all either entirely closed or are running limited operations. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is keeping its offices open but is suspending E-Verify for the duration of the shutdown.
Finally, employers should be aware that the shutdown will have a limited effect on the operation of the federal courts—at least for now. According to an official statement, “the federal Judiciary will remain open for business for approximately 10 business days. On or around October 15, 2013, the Judiciary will reassess its situation and provide further guidance.”
According to Harold P. Coxson, a principal with Ogletree Governmental Affairs, Inc. and a shareholder in the Washington, D.C. office of Ogletree Deakins: “It’s important to emphasize that the federal government has been shut down now 18 times under Democratic as well as Republican rule. Former House Speaker Tip O’Neil, for example, presided over the shutdown of the government 12 times (over spending, not policy issues). Attorney General Benjamin Civiletti under President Jimmy Carter first issued the “essential” versus “non-essential” personnel distinction. Initially he declared that federal employees who came to work during a shutdown were ‘illegal volunteers’ but later issued a clarification that gave the president discretion to determine ‘essential employees’ who could continue to work.”
Coxson continued, “Shutdowns have previously occurred in 1976 (lasting 10 days), 1977 (lasting 12 days and two others each for 8 days), 1978 (lasting 17 days), 1979 (lasting 11 days), 1981 (lasting 2 days), 1982 (lasting 1 and 3 days), 1983 (lasting 3 days), 1984 (lasting 2 and 1 days), 1986 (lasting 1 day), 1987 (lasting 1 day), 1990 (lasting 3 days), and 1995 (lasting 5 and 21 days). Of course, the most notorious shutdown came under Speaker Newt Gingrich in 1995, lasting 27 days and costing the federal government $1.4 billion. Hopefully, the impasse will be resolved soon without a significant impact on the U.S. economy.”
Our blog post, “The Government Shutdown: Will It Shut Down Your Company?” offers more details on how the federal government shutdown will affect key government agencies.