Federal Employee Pay and a Government Closure

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By on April 11, 2017 in Pay & Benefits with 0 Comments
Image of closed sign over DC capitol building

The Federal Employee Fair Treatment Act of 2017 (S. 861) has quickly moved from its introduction to being reported out of committee and sent to the full Senate for consideration. The bill was introduced on April 5 and was placed on the Senate calendar on April 7th.

The actual language in the bill is now available. As there is now a Congressional recess, the bill will not be taken up until Congress returns on April 24th.

The bill was introduced by Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD). He was quoted in a federal union press release praising his introduction of the bill:

Our bill is the right thing to do and the fair thing to do. Federal workers are dedicated public servants who simply want to do their jobs on behalf of the American people. They shouldn’t suffer because of extreme partisan gamesmanship.

The bill has 16 co-sponsors. It essentially guarantees that federal employees will be paid after a government shutdown.

While employees have generally been paid after a federal government shutdown in the past, there was a question as to whether employees would actually be paid for the time they were away from work as a result of a lapse in appropriations. (See, for example, Court Awards Back Pay to Federal Employees Over 2013 Government Shutdown)

Of course, if the government is shutdown, employees are unlikely to receive a paycheck just as if they were still reporting to work. If employees are not reporting to work, the most likely scenario is that the money will arrive after the shutdown ends.

The text of the bill reads:

Each Federal employee furloughed as a result of a covered lapse in appropriations shall be paid for the period of the lapse in appropriations (emphasis supplied), and each excepted employee who is required to perform work during a covered lapse in appropriations shall be paid for such work, at the employee’s standard rate of pay, at the earliest date possible after the lapse in appropriations ends, regardless of scheduled pay dates.

During a covered lapse in appropriations, each excepted employee who is required to perform work shall be entitled to use leave under chapter 63 of title 5, or any other applicable law governing the use of leave by the excepted employee, for which compensation shall be paid at the earliest date possible after the lapse in appropriations ends, regardless of scheduled pay dates.

The possibility of a shutdown makes some readers happy. There are often comments welcoming a chance to stay at home (or at least not go to work) and receiving pay after the event. Here is an example of a comment recently submitted by a reader on the possibility of a government closure:

Of course, there were many opposing views such as this one:

Politicians are speaking confidently that no shutdown will occur this year. Senator John Cronyn (R-TX) said last weekend on Fox News:  “There’s not going to be a shutdown.”

The April Congressional recess started on April 10th. This means is that Congress will only have five days after returning to Washington on April 24th to pass a bill to fund government operations. A government shutdown could start on April 29th. We do not know if Senator Cardin’s bill will pass before April 29th or if funding will be approved when Congress returns.

April could be an interesting month for the federal workforce.

© 2020 Ralph R. Smith. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from Ralph R. Smith.


About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47