Status of Employment-Related Federal Agencies During The Federal Shutdown

With the partial shutdown of the federal government entering its nineteenth day (as of today), and with reports indicating there are no signs of an imminent resolution, employers should be aware of the status of federal entities whose activities may impact their workforces and employment law-related issues.

Here is a quick rundown of the status of federal agencies that may be relevant to you:

1)    U.S. Department of Labor (DOL)

Fully staffed and operational during the shutdown.

2)    National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)

Fully staffed and operational during the shutdown.

3)    Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

Currently closed because of the federal government shutdown. According to its contingency plan released in November, EEOC’s workforce of over 2,000 employees has been dramatically scaled back to only 103 staffers, some of whom would be working on a part-time basis.

Because of this, only a limited number of EEOC services are currently available:

  • There are no changes to the deadlines for filing claims.

  • There will be no intake interviews, investigations or mediations conducted during the shutdown. Moreover, the EEOC will not be able to respond to inquiries concerning pending charges.

  • Mediations scheduled to occur during the period of the shutdown are cancelled until further notice. When federal government operations resume, mediators will contact the parties in each matter to reschedule the mediation.

  • Responding to pending FOIA requests is currently suspended and will resume when the federal government reopens. New FOIA requests will be accepted during the federal government shutdown, but will not be processed until after the federal government reopens.

  • EEOC litigation will be suspended unless a continuance has not been granted by the court.   

4)    Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

Fully staffed and operational during the shutdown.

5)    U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS)

    Fully staffed and operational during the shutdown.

6)    U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ)

  • DOJ’s divisions and agencies involved in criminal law enforcement are exempt from the shutdown (roughly 95,000 of DOJ’s 113,000 employees), according to a DOJ memo. This includes DOJ divisions and agencies involved in criminal law enforcement (FBI, DEA, ATF, BOP, etc.).

  • Civil cases, however, are “curtailed or postponed” through the shutdown. 

7)    Federal Judiciary (Federal Courts)

  • The federal judiciary remains open and can continue operations through Jan. 11, 2019, by using court fee balances and other funds not dependent on a new appropriation.

  • Most proceedings and deadlines will occur as scheduled. In cases where an attorney from an Executive Branch agency is not working because of the shutdown, hearing and filing dates may be rescheduled.

  • Case Management/Electronic Case Files (CM/ECF) system also will remain in operation for electronic filing of documents.

  • If the shutdown were to continue past three weeks and exhaust the federal Judiciary’s resources, the courts would then operate under the terms of the Anti-Deficiency Act, which allows work to continue during a lapse in appropriations if it is necessary to support the exercise of Article III judicial powers. Under this scenario, each court and federal defender’s office would determine the staffing resources necessary to support such work.

Attorneys in Miles & Stockbridge’s Labor, Employment, Benefits & Immigration Practice Group are available to answer any particular questions you may have about how the federal government shutdown affects your workplace.  

This blog was written by Patrick Selwood at Miles & Stockbridge.

Opinions and conclusions in this post are solely those of the author unless otherwise indicated. The information contained in this blog is general in nature and is not offered and cannot be considered as legal advice for any particular situation. Any federal tax advice provided in this communication is not intended or written by the author to be used, and cannot be used by the recipient, for the purpose of avoiding penalties which may be imposed on the recipient by the IRS. Please contact the author if you would like to receive written advice in a format which complies with IRS rules and may be relied upon to avoid penalties.