The Government Shutdown – When the Cat’s Away, Can You Really Play?

The government shutdown is upon us with no immediate relief in sight. The good news, at least in some respects, is that regulators, administrative law judges, hearings officers and review panels  – the faceless government officials who act as arbiters of a whole panoply of employment disputes –are also sidelined.  But does this really mean you can play while the cat’s away?

The answer is, it depends which agency you’re talking about. If you’re involved with the Department of Labor, case deadlines for cases before administrative law judges will be expanded to include all days the government is shut down. For example, if the deadline was 30 days and the government shut down for ten days you really have 40 days.

Over at the EEOC, however, deadlines for filing are not extended due to the government shutdown so a missed deadline is a serious matter. However, the EEOC furloughed 95% of its employees so current cases and investigations have ground to a halt.

The National Labor Relations Board has decided to extend the deadlines to serve or file any document for which a grant of an extension is permitted by law. However, this does not affect the deadlines for filing a charge — these remain the same.

Employers using the E-Verify system will find the system unavailable during the government shutdown. So if you’re making new hires and trying to take any action on E-Verify to ensure that the new employees have a right to work you’ll become frustrated, as the entire system to include customer support will be down for the duration of the government furlough.

If you asked the IRS for a six-month extension to pay your taxes while the government is shutdown, don’t expect to get it. Though IRS operations will be limited during the shutdown, the collection of taxes will continue on schedule. The old saw about Death and Taxes still holds true here.

If you are currently under investigation for a discrimination complaint, your investigator is probably at home, as are agency lawyers and administrative law judges. The reprieve might be a good time to do some additional preparation or gather more evidence to support your case.

But all good things come to an end. Eventually these nonessential essential personnel will receive their back pay and gleefully come back to work someday. Play now, but remember the cat will always come back with its claws bared.


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