On October 1st, 2013, the federal government officially shut down all non-essential services. While Congress works on a budget, it is important for employers to know what is happening with major employment-related agencies and programs.
Here are the agencies and programs affected, and how the changes will impact employers:
- E-Verify: The website is offline and the service is completely shut down. Employers must still go through the normal Form I-9 process, but will not be able to run new hires through E-Verify. Cases currently in the program are suspended. In documentation, employers should note the shutdown as the reason for the delay in E-Verify compliance.
- U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS): Because USCIS activities are supported by user fees, it is still operating; therefore, employees can still receive updated immigration documents.
- Social Security Administration (SSA): Only some SSA functions (such as payment of benefits) are still operating. The issuing of Social Security cards is considered a non-essential function; therefore, employees needing a new or updated Social Security card will be forced to wait until the office reopens.
- National Labor Relations Board (NLRB): The NLRB has closed its offices, removed access to most of its website, and furloughed all but 11 employees. There is still a six-month deadline to file unfair labor practice complaints. Current hearings have been postponed until the end of the shutdown, but the legal effect of complaints filed during the shutdown is unclear. The Board indicates that the shutdown will be treated as a holiday, so it will be accepting filings on the first business day following the reopening.
- Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS): The FMCS will be mostly unavailable, except that mediators may be called if necessary to avert significant labor disruptions in health care, defense, power generation, or other critical industries.
- Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP): Although the website is still functioning, the OFCCP is completely shut down. Employers who recently received a scheduling letter for an affirmative action audit are recommended to turn in the documents by the stated deadline. At a minimum, employers can email electronic documents to the compliance officer and offer to mail any hardcopy documents.
- Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC): The EEOC is mostly shut down, but will continue to accept complaints. Unless a review reveals that there is human life or property at risk, in which case it would seek a court order, the agency will not investigate any complaints during the shutdown.
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA): OSHA has furloughed most of its staff, retaining two compliance officers at each local office for safety and health emergencies. It will continue to accept reports of workplace fatalities, hospitalizations, and imminent danger.
- Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division: The division will retain enough staff to investigate “any incidents involving serious injury or death of a minor while employed or any transportation accident or any housing safety violation involving serious injury or death of a farm worker.”
The government shutdown is causing confusion throughout the public and private sectors, and it is more important than ever for employers to be aware of their legal standing. To learn how Vigilant can help with your employment law questions, please contact a Vigilant representative.
Vigilant (www.vigilant.org) helps employers in the Northwest and California navigate complex employment issues. Vigilant offers unlimited consulting with on-staff labor and employment attorneys, strategic HR professionals, and safety experts for a predictable, flat monthly membership fee. Membership includes employment law advice and resources for employee relations and human resources compliance. Vigilant’s professionals act as an extension of a business’s management team, allowing managers to focus on their core business objectives. For more information, visit www.vigilant.org.