Today marks the first partial federal government shutdown in 17 years (the last shutdown, which occurred during the Clinton administration lasted 21 days). The shutdown started last night when the midnight deadline to extend congressional spending authority passed without an agreement on a spending plan.
Due to the shutdown, the U.S. government closed a number of its non-essential services as of October 1, 2013. As a result of last night’s congressional stalemate over a spending plan, many key government agencies upon which employers regularly rely are also closed today and will remain closed for the duration of the shutdown.
What should employers do if they need to contact these agencies or have matters pending in federal courts? The following are some of the key agencies and government divisions—including their plans for operating during the shutdown—that might affect your business.
- NLRB. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a statement on its website stating that it is “currently closed due to a lapse in appropriated funds.” The Board issued a 12-page contingency plan covering how it plans to operate during the shutdown.
- EEOC. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) website, a limited number of agency services will still be available during the shutdown. The EEOC’s shutdown notice specifies the procedure the agency will follow for pending charges, federal sector hearings, federal sector appeals, and litigation.
- Federal Judiciary. The federal courts will remain open for at least some time. According to an official statement, “the federal Judiciary will remain open for business for approximately 10 business days. On or around October 15, 2013, the Judiciary will reassess its situation and provide further guidance. All proceedings and deadlines remain in effect as scheduled, unless otherwise advised. Case Management/Electronic Case Files (CM/ECF) will remain in operation for the electronic filing of documents with courts.” In addition, the Supreme Court of the United States has stated that it will continue to conduct its normal operations through October 4 in the event of a lapse of appropriations.
- USCIS. Our Immigration Practice Group members reported on the effects of the shutdown in their recent article, “Immigration Consequences of a Possible Federal Government Shutdown.” This morning, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) reports that all of its offices worldwide are open and that individuals should report to interviews and appointments as scheduled. Importantly, USCIS also reports that E-Verify will not be available during the federal government shutdown. As a result, individuals will not be able to access their E-Verify accounts. More information on the availability of E-Verify is available on the USCIS website.
- DOL. As a result of the shutdown, some 800,000 federal employers will be furloughed without pay. The U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) website features President Obama’s letter to these employees. In addition, on September 25, the DOL updated its 63-page plan for activity during a lapse in appropriations, which details which of its employees will be on-the-job for the duration of the shutdown.
- OSHA. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will reportedly be furloughing most of its employees, except for two senior compliance officers in each area office. According to OSHA’s website, workplace fatalities, hospitalizations, or imminent danger situations may still be reported to the agency during the shutdown.
Hera S. Arsen, J.D., Ph.D. is managing editor of firm publications in the Torrance, California office of Ogletree Deakins.