Due to the federal government shutdown, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and the Department of Labor (DOL) have issued contingency plans. These plans set forth what the agencies will and will not do during the shutdown.
The EEOC’s contingency plan states that the EEOC will continue to perform only those functions “involving the safety of human life or the protection of property.” Specifically of interest to private sector employers, the EEOC will:
- Docket new charges
- Continue to litigate lawsuits where a continuance has not been granted by the court
- If necessary upon reviewing a new charge, file a court action to obtain preliminary relief to protect life or property
- Maintain the EEOC’s information systems
- Maintain the security of the EEOC’s offices and property
- Perform necessary administrative support to carry out the above functions
The EEOC has also listed the functions that it will not perform during the shutdown:
- Staff will not be available to answer questions or respond to correspondence
- Charges will not be investigated
- Litigation will be put on hold, to the extent courts grant the EEOC’s requests for extensions of time
- Mediations will be cancelled
- Outreach and education events will be cancelled
- Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests will not be processed
In its contingency plan, the NLRB lists those services and programs that will remain operational during the shutdown, which are intended to protect federal legal actions already taken or to protect life or property. The NLRB will:
- Continue to litigate necessary court actions
- Maintain the Office of Inspector General hotline, to receive calls reporting violations of laws and regulations relating to NLRB programs
- Maintain the emergency contact telephone number for the public
The NLRB has also identified programs and services that will be closed during the shutdown, as a result of which the following functions will not be performed:
- Representation case petition docketing, investigations hearing and elections
- Unfair labor practice charge docketing, investigations, hearing, complaints and settlements
- Other federal court litigation
- Administrative Law Judge and Board decisions
- Resolution of workplace disputes, including collective bargaining, protected concerted activities, and representational issues
- Resolution of employer/employee disputes with the union
- Remedial actions including backpay, reinstatement, reimbursement of union dues and fees, bargaining orders
- Information Officer services to receive calls from the public and provide information about the NLRB’s functions and procedures
- Outreach and Public Affairs services, including the website
As for the DOL, its contingency plan includes each of its divisions, which have identified what functions they will continue during the shutdown. All other functions, including information services and the website, will be suspended during the shutdown. Of particular relevance to private employers are the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Wage and Hour Division (WHD).
OSHA’s contingency plan provides that it will continue to address emergency situations. These are defined as imminent danger situations, meaning that “a danger exists which could reasonably be expected to cause death or serious physical harm immediately,” and workplace catastrophes and deaths.
The DOL’s Wage and Hour Division, which enforces the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act, stated in its contingency plan that it will only investigate incidents involving the serious injury or death of a minor while employed, any transportation accident, or any housing safety violation involving the serious injury or death of a farm worker.