AFGE Lawsuit Says Federal Employees Can't Be Forced to Work During Shutdown

By on April 8, 2011 in Current Events with 44 Comments

We linked to a story a couple of days ago that said that the American Federation of Government Employees would likely file a lawsuit against the federal government stating that it is a violation of the 13th amendment to require federal employees to work without pay during a shutdown. That happened today.

The AFGE filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. According to AFGE President John Gage, “Hundreds of thousands of federal employees will be required to work during a shutdown, and there’s no guarantee that Congress will keep the administration’s promise to pay those employees once the shutdown is over.”

Gage’s statement is correct, but at least one Congressman wants to ensure that federal employees get paid in the event of a shutdown. There’s no guarantee that bill will pass through Congress, however.

The lawsuit says requiring federal employees to work without pay violates language in the Constitution that prohibits the government from committing to spend money that has not been appropriated by Congress, and that it is a form of involuntary servitude which is banned under the 13th amendment.

“The Constitution requires an appropriation by Congress before federal dollars can be spent, no exceptions,” Gage said. “Without an appropriation, the agencies simply can’t spend money or incur debts by forcing employees to work.”

© 2016 Ian Smith. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from Ian Smith.

About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of FedSmith.com. He enjoys writing about current topics that affect the federal workforce. Ian also has a background in web development and does the technical work for the FedSmith.com web site and its sibling sites.

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