The government shutdown may have ended weeks ago, but some federal workers are still feeling the financial fallout, according to a new lawsuit.
Although only five workers have jumped on board thus far, hundreds more may join the suit in an attempt to receive compensation for interest costs, late fees and other problems that arose with belated paychecks. Employees did receive back pay, but by then it was too late for some to catch up on their bills.
The current plaintiffs work for the Bureau of Prisons, and worked during the shutdown but were not paid until it ended. According to their attorney, the delayed payment is a violation of the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act. If the suit is successful, the employees could receive thousands of dollars in damages.
The workers are participating in a collective action lawsuit, which differs from a class action lawsuit because plaintiffs must sign up individually.
According to Martina Copeland, an employee of the Federal Correctional Institution in Jesup, Georgia, “Me and my spouse work for the [federal government], which means that anytime there's a shutdown, neither of us are getting paid but yet our debtors don't care … I'm still incurring costs due to the shutdown because of interest payments, deferments.”
According to shutdownlawsuit.com, a site dedicated to the suit, “employees are entitled to liquidated damages when an employer violates the FLSA. Plaintiffs claim, on behalf of themselves and other similarly situated essential employees, that the retroactive payments compensate only for the time worked October 1st through October 5th, but not for the liquidated damages to which essential employees are entitled because they were not paid minimum wage or overtime on their regularly scheduled payday.”
The site also notes, “This is not a windfall for these employees … Liquidated damages are intended to compensate employees for the losses they may have suffered as a result of not receiving the proper wages when due.”
Despite the low number of employees who have signed on so far, 13 million government workers were paid late due to the shutdown, and all are potential plaintiffs.