It’s sometimes easy to forget that the government shutdown has very real-world implications. Case in point? The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

As of now, it’s closed.  The agency has even posted a notice about it on its’ website. 

That doesn’t mean that the time limits for filing a charge have been extended.   Generally, federal claims must be filed within 300 days of the alleged discrimination. As noted by the EEOC, “These time limits may not be extended because of the shut-down.”

The EEOC thus encourages employees considering filing claims “within 30 days of your time expiring” or unsure “your time expires”, to not wait to file.

For employers with matters at the EEOC, mediations have been cancelled.  It is unclear from the shutdown notice whether the EEOC will continue to press the time frames for submitting position statements, but given the lack of action on anything pressing, the agency would certainly seem amenable to having those deadlines extended.

Employers with specific questions though should certainly check with their counsel to see if their particular case warrants action.

The bottom line is that the backlog that existed at the EEOC will continue to grow because of this delay; mediations are going to get rescheduled and action is just going to take longer.

Stating the obvious: The longer the shutdown, the longer the delays.

And I’ve been locked out

And I know we’re through

But I can’t begin to face up to the truth…..

— Crowded House, “Locked Out” (1993)

So, here we are.  The (partial) government shutdown began early this morning. And suddenly, we’re locked out of national parks and many government services.

But how does this impact employers in Connecticut? Fortunately, both Jon Hyman and Robin Shea (on their respective blogs) have neatly summarized what is happening today.

The EEOC has summarized its shutdown procedure as follows:

Pursuant to the plan, only activities involving the safety of human life or the protection of property will continue. Specifically, EEOC will: preserve the rights of aggrieved individuals under the federal employment discrimination statutes by docketing new charges and federal sector appeals; continue to litigate lawsuits where a continuance has not been granted; examine new charges to determine whether prompt judicial action is necessary to protect life or property and, if appropriate, file such action to obtain preliminary relief; maintain the integrity and viability of EEOC’s information systems; maintain the security of our offices and property; and perform necessary administrative support to carry out those excepted functions. The bulk of these activities would be handled by staff in our field offices.

What will not happen at the EEOC?

  • Staff will not be available to answer questions from the public, or to respond to correspondence from the public.
  • While we will accept charges that must be filed in order to preserve the rights of a claimant during a shutdown, these charges will not be investigated.
  • Insofar as the courts grant EEOC’s requests for extensions of time, 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

And that’s not the only agency impact that employers will feel.  As noted by the Ohio Employer’s Law Blog:

The Department of Labor and the National Labor Relations Board have each posted their own detailed shutdown plans. The bottom line, however, is that except for services that are absolutely essential, federal agencies will be closed until Congress works out its financial issues.

Federal courts, meanwhile, will remain open for business as usual for at least 10 business days, after which the Judiciary will reassess the situation.

So, we’re locked out.  State governmental agencies remain largely unaffected by this shutdown, at least for now.  So employers that have business at the Connecticut Department of Labor or Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities won’t see any big changes yet. Whether we will start to see a trickle-down impact of the federal shutdown remains to be seen.