Legislation Introduced to Guarantee Pay to Federal Employees in Case of a Shutdown

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By on December 20, 2018 in Pay & Benefits with 0 Comments
Congressman Rob Wittman (R-VA)

Congressman Rob Wittman (R-VA)

Updated: Friday, December 21 7:41 PM EST

Legislation has been introduced in the House to guarantee back pay to federal employees who would be furloughed in the event of a partial government shutdown. Funding for the federal government expires at the end of the day on Friday, December 21, 2018 unless Congress can agree on a funding bill.

The bill is being introduced by Congressmen Don Beyer (D-VA) and Rob Wittman (R-VA). Collectively the two Congressmen represent nearly 120,000 federal employees.

During a partial government shutdown, the Office of Personnel Management states that employees who are “non-exempt” will be furloughed. It is then up to Congress as to determine whether or not these employees receive back pay for the time they were furloughed.

The Federal Employee Retroactive Pay Fairness Act (H.R. 7368) is a preemptive measure to ensure pay for the federal workers that would be affected since a shutdown is looking more likely.

“We do not want a government shutdown, but if it comes our bill would protect federal workers from the worst of the consequences,” said Rep. Beyer. “This legislation is designed to shield civil servants, who need to support their families, from the disastrous effects of failure to agree on a measure to fund the government. We hope it will not be needed, but time is running out and the current outlook is not good.”

Wittman added, “Federal employees should not be penalized for Congress’ inability to get its job done on time. This legislation sends a clear signal to our federal workers that they will not be harmed in the unfortunate event of a shutdown. While this legislation would minimize the impacts of funding uncertainty, my focus remains on returning Congress to a regular schedule of budgeting and passing appropriations bills.”

As an interesting side note, Wittman voted in favor of the continuing resolution that includes funding for a border wall, which is the main sticking point threatening the partial government shutdown.

He said in a statement, “Although I am fundamentally against CRs, it is critical that we protect our nation. I have received countless calls and emails from constituents over the past few days in support of building a border wall, and I was proud to cast my vote today in favor of protecting our homeland and finally delivering on one of our key promises.”

He noted, however, that continuing resolutions are not the proper way to govern and said that the current situation was completely avoidable:

We should not be funding our government through continuing resolutions (CRs) – they are a short-term solution to a long-term problem. This situation was completely avoidable; Last week, instead of staying in town to get the job done, Members had a six-day weekend when critical funding issues were at stake. In fact, I said it this summer and I’ll say it again now, Members of Congress should’ve worked through August to pass all the appropriations bills through regular order.

What About Holiday Pay?

Since a partial shutdown would take place over Christmas, federal employees are probably wondering what impact this has on holiday pay.

According to recently issued pay and leave guidance from the Office of Management and Budget, “Employees furloughed on a holiday (e.g., December 25) will not be paid for the holiday unless authorized by subsequent legislation.”

The bill from Beyer and Wittman as currently written makes no mention of holiday pay specifically. It simply states:

Federal employees furloughed as a result of any lapse in appropriations that begins on or about December 22, 2018, shall be compensated at their standard rate of compensation, for the period of such lapse in appropriations, as soon as practicable after such lapse in appropriations ends.

Presumably this would not include holiday pay. Until the bill is passed into law (if it is passed into law due to a partial shutdown), it won’t be known for certain as to how holiday pay will be handled.

Senate Votes to Authorize Back Pay

Update: The Senate passed a version of the above bill introduced by Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) late Friday that would guarantee back pay for furloughed federal employees in the event of a partial government shutdown. It passed unanimously and now heads to the House. As of Friday evening, the House had not voted on its version of the bill sponsored by Beyer and Wittman.

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Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of FedSmith.com. He enjoys writing about current topics that affect the federal workforce.

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