The National Treasury Employees Union has become the latest federal employee union to file a lawsuit against the government over the shutdown.
The lawsuit alleges the government is violating the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) by requiring federal employees to work without pay during the partial government shutdown.
“It is unconscionable that many employees are having to work – and in some cases overtime – with no pay whatsoever,” said NTEU National President Tony Reardon.
NTEU is asking the court to order compensation for affected federal employees as well as 100 percent matching liquidated damages.
AFGE recently sued the government over the shutdown as well, also arguing that there were FLSA violations by not paying some employees for work they were doing.
These recent lawsuits stem from a new precedent that was set by the courts in a case involving the 2013 shutdown.
“The Martin case established the principle that it’s a violation of the FLSA to have employees basically work for free; that’s what’s going on here,” said Dan Meyer, a partner with Tully Rinckey PLLC.
In discussing AFGE’s case, Meyer noted that it is part of a strategy to ensure federal laws governing paying federal employees are enforced as intended. FLSA requires employees to be paid in a timely manner at the end of the next pay period; not weeks or months later.
“AFGE has an incremental strategy; each time there is a furlough, they bring another case to expand the law further and further, so at some point we may get to a position legally where the cost of the shutdowns are known ahead of time because AFGE has won all of those cases. So the executive branch will understand exactly the cost going into a shutdown. If federal law was being enforced the way it was passed by the Congress, there would be a huge disincentive for the executive branch to engage in a shutdown because it would be just too expensive,” he said.