Shutdown Spurs Class Action From Federal Workers

WASHINGTON (CN) – Two Bureau of Prisons employees filed a federal class action Monday claiming the Trump administration is violating federal labor laws by not paying certain employees during the ongoing partial government shutdown. 

When the government shut down on Dec. 22, some 400,000 federal workers who were deemed “excepted employees” had to continue working. This included Justin Tarovisky and Grayson Sharp, who say in a nine-page complaint filed in the Court of Federal Claims they received no pay for work they put in on the day the government shut down.

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

“Excepted employees were required to report to work and perform their normal duties, but they were not timely compensated for certain work performed in pay period 25, including work performed on December 22, 2018,” the complaint states. 

In a statement announcing the lawsuit Monday, the American Federation of Government Employees noted many of the employees deemed excepted work in dangerous situations, such as Tarovisky and Sharp, who work at high-security prisons.

The lawsuit currently only covers employees who broke through their overtime threshold with the hours they put in on Dec. 22. However, Heidi Burakiewicz, an attorney with the Washington, D.C. firm Kalijarvi, Chuzi, Newman & Fitch who is handling the case, said in an interview more federal employees could have a legal claim if the shutdown continues to the next pay day and their paychecks fall below minimum-wage thresholds.

Burakiewicz brought a similar suit on behalf of federal employees in the wake of the 2013 government shutdown, winning a verdict that entitled employees to twice their back pay.

“This is not an acceptable way for any employer, let along the U.S. government, to treat its employees,” Burakiewicz said in a statement Monday. “These employees still need to pay childcare expenses, buy gas, and incur other expenses to go to work every day and yet, they are not getting paid. It is a blatant violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act.”

Attorneys with the American Federation of Government Employees are joining Burakiewicz in representing Tarovisky and Sharp.

The Justice Department did not immediately return a request for comment Monday afternoon. The agency’s website, through which press must submit requests for comment, is not being updated during the shutdown.

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