WASHINGTON –Last night, the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) and Kalijarvi, Chuzi, Newman & Fitch (KCNF DC) filed an amended complaint in their lawsuit against the federal government on behalf of federal employees being forced to work without pay. The amended complaint – which comes as federal employees who have some of the most dangerous jobs in the country are struggling to make ends meet – alleges new violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act, triggered by the fact that beginning on Friday, Jan. 11, 2019, 420,000 federal employees will not receive a paycheck for a full two-week pay period.
AFGE, the nation’s largest federal employee union, and KCNF filed the first lawsuit challenging the shutdown on Dec. 31, 2018. Our complaint alleges that the federal government is violating the law by requiring some federal employees to work without pay during the shutdown. These employees, and other employees who are deemed “essential,” perform a variety of critical, and often dangerous roles, including correctional officers, TSA security officers, FEMA employees, border and immigration agents, and many more.
“Many of our employees struggle every day to make ends meet, and they cannot afford to miss even one pay check,” AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said. “We are going to keep fighting for all the workers who are on the job, working without pay keeping our country safe, and all the other workers are locked out of their jobs and unsure how they will continue to provide for themselves and their families.
“We are fighting in the courts, taking to the streets, calling our members of Congress and the White House, and doing everything we can to get the message out that federal employees want to work and resent being used as a pawn in this political farce,” Cox added. “We will not stop until we get all of the government open and all of our employees back to work with full backpay.”
“Hundreds of thousands of federal employees have now been working for two weeks under sometimes dangerous conditions, without pay,” said Heidi Burakiewicz, partner at KCNF DC. “While we hoped the shutdown would have ended in time for employees to get their paychecks for the first full pay period following the shutdown, we now have every indication that the employees will miss their paychecks for work performed between December 23 and January 5. That is a blatant violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
“The shutdown needs to end so these employees, who are suffering ongoing harm every day, can get paid and focus on putting their finances back together,” Burakiewicz added. “This is not an acceptable way for any employer, let alone the U.S. government, to treat its employees.”
After the 2013 shutdown, approximately 25,000 essential federal employees, represented by Heidi Burakiewicz, now a partner with 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. However, even while the government is calculating the damages to those approximately 25,000 employees, the government has not required that essential federal employees be paid on time during the current shutdown.
KCNF DC is in the process of setting up an electronic sign-up system for people to use to join the case. In the meantime, questions federal employees have about the case can be emailed to the law firm at [email protected].