Bill Introduced to Pay Essential Federal Workers During Shutdown

Recently introduced legislation would ensure that essential federal employees continue to get their regular paychecks during the current shutdown.

Federal employees who are deemed “essential” or “excepted” have to work during the ongoing partial government shutdown, but they are not paid until after the shutdown concludes.

Federal employees missed their first paychecks this past Friday, January 11, when the shutdown went into its 21st day.

But a new bill introduced this week would change all of that. The Providing Pay for Essential Employees Act (H.R. 301) would ensure that federal workers who must continue to work would also continue to receive their regular paychecks. This is often federal employees in law enforcement, air traffic control, and Border Patrol agents to name a few.

The bill was introduced by Congressman Bob Gibbs (R-OH). In a statement about the bill, he said:

They [essential federal employees] should not be caught in the middle of political ploys by politicians who are not serious about securing our border.  If they are working to protect America and the lives of our citizens, they should be getting their paychecks on time.  We shouldn’t be forcing these men and women to shoulder the burden of Democrats’ unwillingness to work with President Trump and Congressional Republicans to solve the humanitarian and security crisis on our Southern Border.

Lawsuits Filed Over Pay

Federal employee unions would certainly agree with Gibbs’ position on paying excepted federal workers.

NTEU and AFGE both recently filed lawsuits alleging that the government is breaking the law by requiring some federal employees to work without pay. Although they will eventually get paid, not doing so in the interim is a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act according to the allegations of the lawsuits.

“If employees are working, they must be paid—and if there is not money to pay them, then they should not be working,” said NTEU National President Tony Reardon.

In the 2013 shutdown, a court awarded back pay to federal employees in a class action suit over the same issue which set a precedent indicating that the courts seem to agree that working without pay is in fact an FLSA violation. It will be interesting to see how these latest cases play out in the courts.

Articles with more information about the recent lawsuits can be found below.

About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of He has over 20 years of combined experience in media and government services, having worked at two government contracting firms and an online news and web development company prior to his current role at FedSmith.