Labor & Employment

US government violated labor laws when it delayed paychecks during shutdown, judge says

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A judge with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims has refused to dismiss a lawsuit contending that federal workers should have been paid on time during the government shutdown last fall.

Chief Judge Patricia Campbell-Smith ruled (PDF) last Thursday that the federal government violated the federal Fair Labor Standards Act when it delayed paychecks to some employees during the shutdown, report the National Law Journal and the Washington Post.

The initial plaintiffs were five employees in the federal prison system and the U.S. Justice Department who were required to work during the shutdown that began on Oct. 1. More than 1,000 plaintiffs from various governmental agencies have opted in, and the suit seeks class-action status.

The plaintiffs received timely pay in mid-October for work performed from Sept. 22 to Sept. 30, but not for work performed from Oct. 1 to Oct. 5. Their paychecks for the latter five days came about two weeks after their scheduled payday.

Campbell-Smith allowed claims that contended the delay constituted minimum-wage and overtime violations for nonexempt employees. The judge dismissed a third claim alleging that managerial, professional and other exempt employees were de facto nonexempt employees, and the delayed payment was an overtime violation.

Campbell-Smith did not reach the question of whether damages must be paid. Damages aren’t available if an employer acts in good faith and had a reasonable belief it was complying with the law, the judge said.

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