U.S. Government Shutdown Hits Labor Law Compliance Agencies

With more than 800,000 federal workers furloughed in the U.S. government shutdown, agencies providing oversight of labor law compliance programs have made drastic temporary cuts to their staffing levels.

Department of Labor Shutdown Plan

Most federal programs and agencies are affected by the shutdown, including the Department of Labor (DOL), which furloughed 82% of its employees. As part of the Department of Labor’s shutdown plan, the Wage and Hour Division staffing levels will go from 1,829 employees to only six, a reduction of 99.7%.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) experienced a more modest furlough rate of 90%, furloughing only 230 of its 2,235 employees. OSHA will continue to investigate and enforce occupational situations that involve “the safety of human life or protection of property” under Section 13 (Procedures to Counteract Imminent Dangers) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

Chief Judge Stephen Purcell pointed out that the Office of Administrative Law Judges adjudicates 6,000 labor law cases every year, and an interruption in government services will ripple through court calendars, creating a tidal wave of rescheduled hearings, which are typically scheduled 60 to 120 days in advance.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which enforces federal employment discrimination laws, will continue to accept workers’ claims of discrimination during the shutdown, but they will not investigate charges.

Shutdown End Date Unknown

The government shutdown will continue indefinitely until lawmakers can approve a budget bill and overcome partisan wrangling over the President’s healthcare reform program, commonly known as “Obamacare”.

In a letter to federal employees, President Obama wrote: “This shutdown was completely preventable. It should not have happened. And the House of Representatives can end it as soon as it follows the Senate’s lead, and funds your work in the United States Government without trying to attach highly controversial and partisan measures in the process.”

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