The current partial government shutdown—which has been in effect since Dec. 22, 2018—is the longest shutdown in U.S. history. Unlike past shutdowns, the government is not completely closed. However, due to the prolonged nature of the shutdown, some employers are starting to feel its effects.
Here is an overview of how the shutdown is affecting private employers across the country.
Employers, if they haven’t already, will soon start to feel the effects of the shutdown in terms of workplace discrimination claims, Department of Justice (DOJ) litigation and workplace immigration verification. Here is a brief overview of what the temporary closure of key federal agencies means for employers.
Unlike past shutdowns, immigration-related agencies have generally remained open, lessening the effects for employers this time around.
However, the State Department is affected by the shutdown, which, in turn, means that the E-Verify system is not available for employers. As a result, below is a list of functions employers are not able to perform during the shutdown.
E-Verify Functions Employers Cannot Perform During the Government Shutdown:
NOTE: Despite the E-Verify system being down, employers are still subject to Form I-9: Employment Eligibility Verification obligations.
Concessions Granted by USCIS During the Shutdown
In an effort to minimize the burden on employers and employees, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has implemented the following policies for cases affected by the unavailability of E-Verify:
The EEOC, which is the office responsible for eradicating discrimination in the workplace, has the authority to receive, initiate, and investigate charges of discrimination filed against employers.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) is a cabinet-level agency responsible for enforcing the laws of the United States federal government. The DOJ ensures public safety against foreign and domestic threats, including terrorism, and preventing crime. The DOJ was not covered under the minibus funding bill last year, and therefore they are impacted by the partial government shutdown.
While federal contractors aren’t government employees, most businesses that perform work for agencies affected by the shutdown have been forced to suspend their operations. And, while many federal employees will receive back pay for the duration of the shutdown, contractors who are paid based on their time working will not receive any compensation.
Due to the signing of a bill in September 2018 that funded federal agencies through Oct. 1, 2019, a handful of them remain open and fully staffed during the shutdown. They are:
This means that it’s business as usual for wage and hour compliance, as well as labor relations and workplace safety matters.
Joanna Morrow is an employer consultant and advocate who has worked in the employee benefits industry for over two decades. She works diligently to help employers overcome obstacles in their business by sharing her expertise in Human Resources, Benefits & Compensation, Process Mapping, Risk Management and ERISA/DOL/IRS compliance. She is a licensed life and health insurance professional in the State of Arizona and is an active member of the National Association of Health Underwriters (NAHU). Joanna is a senior partner at Arizona Benefit Consultants in Phoenix.