News from Congress: On January 16, 2019, the President signed S.24, the Government Employee Fair Treatment Act of 2019 into law. S.24 contains important provisions for federal employees subject to the present partial government shutdown, as well as for employees affected by future appropriations lapse furloughs.
Historically, when a partial or total government shutdown occurred due to a lapse in appropriations, most furloughed federal employees were not guaranteed back pay for the furlough period (although “excepted employees” who were required to work without pay during the furlough were guaranteed back pay after the budget was ultimately approved). Instead, back pay for non-working furloughed employees had to be approved ad hoc by Congress for each such furlough. While back pay was often approved, its approval was not guaranteed, increasing stress on furloughed federal employees.
S.24 does away with the need for ad hoc back pay approvals for new furloughs. Instead, in the current furlough and in future furloughs caused by a lapse of appropriations, federal and District of Columbia employees will be paid back pay once the new appropriation is passed. Further, the requirement for payment of excepted employees after the appropriation is passed is now fully codified into the U.S. Code. S.24 unfortunately only provides for payment of back pay once new appropriations are passed–it does not fix the problem of federal employees remaining unpaid during the lapse in appropriations. S.24 is also limited to furloughs due to lapse of appropriations (also known as “shutdown furloughs”). “Administrative furloughs,” in which an agency furloughs employees for budgetary reasons without a break in appropriations (such the furloughs which occurred in 2013 due to Sequestration), are not covered by S.24.
If you are a federal employee affected by furloughs and wish to discuss your rights, please consider contacting Passman & Kaplan, P.C. to request an initial consultation.