During last year’s infamous government shutdown, some employees still had to work, and with delayed pay. Five of these employees, who worked for the federal prison system and the U.S. Justice Department, brought suit against the federal government. More than 1,000 plaintiffs from various governmental agencies have joined their case case, and the suit now seeks class-action status. Up to 1.3 million employees could be eligible to join the suit. These plaintiffs are arguing that the government violated the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) when it delayed paychecks during the shutdown.
A judge with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims has refused to dismiss the lawsuit, contending that federal workers should have been paid on time during the government shutdown. The judge ruled that there was a violation of the FLSA, which establishes minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and youth employment regulations. for both private sector employees and employees of Federal, State, and local governments. Even though the employees were eventually paid later, the FLSA was violated because they were not paid until the shutdown was over, and not on the normal pay schedule.
The federal employee plaintiffs in the lawsuit say they suffered financial hardship because of their delayed paychecks. The judge did not yet consider the issue of whether damages should be paid to these employees for their hardship. If the government can prove that it acted in good faith and had a reasonable belief it was complying with the law, the employees will not be able to collect damages.
The FLSA does not just apply to government employees. It also protects private sector employees from wage violations. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division is responsible for administering and enforcing the nation’s worker protection laws. The Department of Labor encourages employees to file a complaint if they believe they are not being paid properly for all the hours they worked.