I am employment attorney Tom Spiggle of The Spiggle Law Firm. In my opinion, the current government shutdown is causing an employment crisis across the country, and holding the American people hostage. The furloughed government workers deserve their rights.

Here is my proof, a Washington Post article on my topic, and my blog page.

Disclaimer: The purpose of this Ask Me Anything is to discuss the government shutdown. My responses should not be taken as legal advice.

(I'll be live again between 1:00 PM EST and 2:00 PM EST to answer questions)

Comments: 3153 • Responses: 29  • Date: 

Bulk__Brogan1394 karma

This shutdown has revealed the alarming number of people who live paycheck to paycheck, even for Federal Government workers. What other issues, both domestic and international, do you see coming to light due to the shutdown?

TSpiggle1008 karma

Absolutely. It will also show how much the federal government plays a role in the private sector. All kinds of private businesses will be affected. Certainly government contractors, but other industries - like oil and gas exploration which relies on permits from the Bureau of Land Management - will be hurt, as will their employees.

TSpiggle205 karma

International travel is another. Anyone requiring specialized permits to come into the US will, in many instances, be on hold during the shutdown.

DianneReams1054 karma

We hear a lot about the people who are being expected to work without pay, but isn't there also just a huge amount of work not being done? I appreciate the human story of people going without paychecks, but I don't feel like I hear as much about what just isn't being done outside of trash pickup around the capital.

TSpiggle452 karma

Excellent point. Yes, there is a huge amount of important work not being done that is already, and will increasingly, affect all of us. For instance, we represent many private-sector clients with wrongful-termination and other claims at the EEOC. But now the EEOC is essentially shut down, which means that all of those claims are going nowhere. That is just one example. Here is an article with other examples: https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/consequences-of-the-government-shutdown-strike-the-private-sector/2019/01/03/dcc66f98-0f73-11e9-831f-3aa2c2be4cbd_story.html?utm_term=.606e1b074519

knumbknuts893 karma

This may be too broad, but how is it even legal to require work without timely payment?

TSpiggle1635 karma

Arguably it's not. In fact, a union is suing the federal government arguing that it is a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. They won a similar lawsuit in 2013

knumbknuts408 karma

What are the possible outcomes, based on that lawsuit? Any extra cabbage for those who are getting hosed?

TSpiggle845 karma

There would indeed be extra cabbage. Under the FLSA, workers can get two times unpaid wages, called "liquidated damages" under the law. In 2013, federal workers won their suit and received liquidated damages.

Onthecountofthree123674 karma

What prevents federal workers from going on strike during this time?

TSpiggle1392 karma

Good point. Actually, federal workers cannot strike under under the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947.

JustAnotherGeek12345466 karma

Why is it legal for the government to require employees to work without pay while it is illegal for private companies to force employees to work without pay?

TSpiggle266 karma

They are both required to pay workers for work performed. See my answers above about the lawsuit already filed against the federal government on this issue.

houdin654jeff455 karma

I know senators and representatives are still paid, due to it being laid out in the Constitution, but what groups of government workers are actually going without pay? Is the military still paid? Is NASA, or the Secret Service, or the IRS (I ask that because I typically have a digital W2 by the first of the year and haven't received it yet) going without pay?

Edit: Wow this got a lot of response while I was working. I've had the W2 thing explained to me so I struck it through. Also, based on information gathered, the military is being paid as they were funded back in September through a separate bill, but the Coast Guard, NASA, the IRS are not. Also, air traffic controllers apparently going without pay, which sucks. I haven't heard from any Secret Service members yet... though they are supposed to keep things... well... secret. However, since they're a branch of the Department of Homeland Security, like the Coast Guard, I would assume they're also not getting paid. Thanks to everyone who's responded. If you're working without pay or not even being allowed to work, I'm sorry for your situation. Call your senators and representatives, I know I will be in the morning.

SethRogen-Not888 karma

NASA employee here - we are not getting paid.

TSpiggle373 karma

Indeed sorry to hear that. Hoping for a quick resolution

TSpiggle170 karma

On the non-civilian and some civilian military are still being paid. There are also other agencies, like NIH, that have already received funding, so some of those workers are still being paid. Most other workers in other federal agencies are not being paid.

cathylynnrandall315 karma

How can government workers be forced to work without getting paid? Can the labor law protect those who are forced to work during the government shut down?

TSpiggle350 karma

The Fair Labor Standards Act does make it unlawful to require anyone work without pay. See my other response about the on-going lawsuit involving this very issue.

SerenaWilliamsRacket202 karma

What, as common 9-5 citizens, do we need to be more aware of in this shutdown that affects us? I know tax refunds may be delayed, but what consequences is the news not reporting or seeing?

TSpiggle288 karma

Yes, refunds may be slightly delayed, but they are being processed. Non-federal workers are currently being affected in that they do not have access to things like federal parks. If the shutdown continues, the ripple effects will spread. For instance, the judiciary will run out of funding on Friday. If that happens the courts will no longer be able to proceed with many civil claims. Also, other private sector employers who rely to some extent on the federal government will lose business, which could result in more people losing work.


What do you think an average person could do to to help the government workers affected by the shutdown ?

TSpiggle289 karma

That's a great question. I think first understand that people you know may be affected by this, and more each day as time drags on. Give them a call. See what they need most. Help with meals? The Kids? And so forth. Do you have any suggestions?

Puggly8910178 karma

Based on your knowledge, how do you see this ending? Someone’s gotta cave, right? This might be more of a political than legal question, but I assume you have much more knowledge about the inner workings than the average person.

TSpiggle334 karma

I wish I knew! I do think pressure will mount significantly as this drags on. Tomorrow will be the first full paycheck missed by federal employees and even the federal courts will run out of funding.

TSpiggle172 karma

Thank you all for the questions! I am signing off for now, but will check back in later today to see if there are any others that come in. Note that we are having a free info session at the firm tomorrow for anyone who who has legal questions about the shutdown. Here is some information about it: https://www.spigglelaw.com/event/surviving-the-shutdown-what-federal-workers-need-to-know/

SchrodingersMinou123 karma

What options are available for federal employees as far as second jobs? I know some workers who have started to consider looking for interim work, but there's a lot of misinformation out there about what jobs they can legally take, if any.

TSpiggle118 karma

That's right, it varies by agency and type of job. But generally if the work does not conflict with requirements for your federal job, then there is generally no prohibition on working another job while on furlough.

PeopleFlavor100 karma

How has this shutdown effected people who were receiving workers' compensation for work-related injuries to help pay medical expenses?

TSpiggle104 karma

To my knowledge, most worker's comp, at least in the short term, will not be affected. This is primarily a matter of state law and funding.

TSpiggle71 karma

Most federal benefits, like federal workers comp, will continue to be paid during the shutdown

Loafthemagnificent82 karma

What options do federal employees have, in terms of legal action, if they are not a part of a union?

TSpiggle118 karma

You do not have to be a part of a union to file suit. Kalijarvi, Chuzi, Newman and Fitch has joined the union in filing. Here is the firm's website: https://kcnfdc.com/

Captainthistleton65 karma

If you quit a job because the government is not paying you how does COBRA work? Are you still eligible and can you be signed up for it in a timely fashion? It seems like a crazy catch 22.

TSpiggle60 karma

If you quit, you would still be COBRA eligible. I presume that COBRA notice, in most instances, would not go out until the agency at issue opened back up. My guess, and it is a guess, is that you would continue to receive healthcare benefits until the government re-opened, then your resignation and COBRA eligibility would get processed.

tenemu31 karma

My friend is a contractor. Do the contracting companies have any obligation to keep paying their employees? If Congress approves backpayment, are the contracting companies required to backpay their employees?

TSpiggle42 karma

Companies who contract for the federal government are, like the federal government, required to pay people when they work. They are not, however, in most instances, required to pay workers who cannot work because of the furlough. Definitely a tough spot to be in.

b_yoself20 karma

Would someone who has furlough be able to file a lawsuit against the government if they aren't granted that compensation?

TSpiggle23 karma

Only if they were require to work without pay, as is the case with essential/excepted workers. It is up to Congress to provide backpay to those out of work because of the furlough. See my response above about a lawsuit already filed against the government.

boti4ever16 karma

What can be done for people whose pay is on standby, like those in the military like my fiance, and don't have access to a union rep?

TSpiggle40 karma

You do not have to be a part of a union to file suit. Kalijarvi, Chuzi, Newman and Fitch has joined the union in filing. Here is the firm's website:


See my response to another question. Though keep in mind this is only for those employees required to work without pay. This suit would likely not include those who are not working because of the furlough.

Gogoko110 karma

How are you?

TSpiggle18 karma

Doing well. Thanks for asking. Let me know if you have any questions about the topic.

Still_King_Slime7 karma

When am I getting my tax refund? lol

TSpiggle9 karma

I think a lot of folks have that question! Wish I had that info

Styx1992-5 karma

Are everyone angry at this "shut down" because he wants to build a wall?

TSpiggle17 karma

If I understand your question, yes, the shutdown is due to President Trump's insistence on funding for a boarder wall.