A stalemate in Congress has caused the federal government to shutdown as of October 1, 2013. As a result, various federal agencies that enforce labor and employment laws are shutdown or operating in a very limited capacity. For many, the shutdown and its attendant effects will include such things as the tolling of filing deadlines, cancellation of mediations and hearings, and delays in the processing of FOIA requests. Federal agencies have posted contingency plans for operations during the shutdown on their respective websites. Below are the main highlights for each agency.
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”)
EEOC activities that will not occur during the shutdown include:
- Staff will not be available to answer questions from the public, or to respond to correspondence from the public.
- While the EEOC will accept charges that must be filed in order to preserve the rights of a claimant, these charges will not be investigated.
- Insofar as the courts grant the EEOC’s requests for extensions of time, the EEOC will not litigate in the federal courts.
- Mediations will be cancelled.
- Federal sector hearings will be cancelled, and federal employees’ appeals of discrimination complaints will not be decided.
- Outreach and education events will be cancelled
- No FOIA requests will be processed.
More information on the EEOC’s contingency plan is available at http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/shutdown_plan.cfm.
Federal Courts will remain open for business for approximately 10 business days. On October 15, 2013, the federal judiciary will reassess its situation and provide further guidance. The judiciary’s website states that all proceedings and deadlines remain in effect as scheduled, unless otherwise advised. Further, Case Management/Electronic Case Files (“CM/ECF”) will remain in operation for the electronic filing of documents with courts. More information is available at http://news.uscourts.gov/judiciary-remain-open-if-government-shuts-down.
Department of Labor (“DOL”)
During the shutdown, the DOL is only permitted to work on services that are considered absolutely essential and involve the safety of human life (i.e., inspections of mining sites). As a result, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) must stop inspections that do not involve immediate dangers or deaths. Further, the DOL states that the payment of unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation claims will proceed as usual and not be affected by the shutdown. The Department of Labor has posted a detailed shutdown plan, which is available at http://www.dol.gov/opa/media/press/opa/shutdown_plan2013.pdf.
National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”)
The NLRB has provided details for the tolling of deadlines and extensions for filing documents, which includes a one-day extension of time for filing or service of a document for each day that the NLRB’s offices are closed. Some NLRB activities that are affected by the shutdown include:
- Tolling of time for filing documents, including briefs and appeals;
- Postponement of unfair labor practice hearings before Administrative Law Judges;
- Postponement of representation elections and hearings; and
- Timeliness of charges and petitions. Note that the six-month statute of limitations remains in effect for the filing of unfair labor practice charges.