As day 26 of the partial government shutdown comes to a close there is still no end in sight and for 800,000 federal workers still no answer on when they’ll get paid again. It’s sparked protest nationwide as well as multiple lawsuits suing the federal government. A local law firm is the latest to file, representing two federal employees in a collective action lawsuit over unpaid wages.
According to Attorney Clif Alexander with Anderson Alexander PLLC, “These people are working paycheck to paycheck. They’re worried about making their payments on rent and groceries so this has been tough for them.”
The firm filed the lawsuit on behalf of its two plaintiffs who are federal employees with the U.S Customs and Border Protection Agency. The collective action lawsuit claims the men have worked without compensation since December 22, 2018, due to the partial government shutdown. It also states the U.S government is in direct violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, adopted in 1938 for private sector employees and then in 1974 for federal employees.
Alexander says, “What we want to do is make people understand if they are having to work during the shutdown without pay that at the end of the shutdown, not only are they owed for that work done but they’re also owed for liquidated damages.”
Liquidated damages are also known as double damages, meaning workers will get paid what they are owed times two.
According to Alexander, “What the FLSA requires is that number 1 you’re paid for minimum wage for all hours worked. The FLSA also requires you’re paid on time ”
And that includes overtime, which is hours worked beyond 40 hours per week. Essentially the lawsuit claims it’s illegal to force someone to work without paying them. What is promising for Alexander and his plaintiffs is in 2013 during the last government shutdown, Judge Kambel Smith ruled in favor of a case identical to one they’ve filed. Smith still presides over cases in Washington D.C and is set to oversee this case as well, something the firm and its clients are hopeful of.
Congress passed legislation on Friday ensuring furloughed workers will receive back pay once the government reopens, which was signed by President Trump on Wednesday.