Is it true government workers are "not getting paid"?

What I mean is: are government workers (that are not furloughed) still earning income and just not receiving their paycheck currently and, when they do, they will get all of their back pay? OR are they not earning any money and any back pay they do get is at the discretion of Congress when the shutdown stops?

If the latter and they do not get their full backpay how is that legal? If they are required to work and end up not getting paid for those hours, isn’t that slavery?

Riemann has it, and from what I understand the Senate has passed it as well. It’s just waiting on the president’s signature.

Now, what if the bill had not been passed? Technically, none of us (working or not) are guaranteed to get paid. I’m not sure of the legal reasons why, but if the rest of the federal government’s contract is as involved as mine, I’m sure they’ve got it covered in there somewhere. Fortunately there haven’t been many shutdowns, and to date they all came with retroactive pay. I guess you can say that issue has yet to face an actual court challenge, so it’s hard to say how it would go.

That was my initial thought as well, but I kind of walked it back. Working without pay is only one aspect of the slave lifestyle, and arguably not the most difficult to bear.

Right. For instance, we can leave the job anytime we want. Those of us who stay, even those who have to work, do so in faith that it will be okay in the long run. We don’t have to, we just do. And so far it has worked out reasonably well. Pay gets delayed a bit for a while, but they’ve made good on it eventually. There’s a lot of jobs in the private sector that would not be so good. (I know because I’ve had a couple of them.) Most of us don’t draw huge paychecks, but security has a lot to be said for it.

Federal employees have traditionally received back pay. Congress has signed legislation for this to happen this time. Traditionally, the President has signed that legislation; however, we don’t have a traditional president at the current time (though Riemann’s quote makes it looks pretty veto proof).

However, contractors typically only get paid for the hours they worked. Since they haven’t been working the past few weeks, they’re not going to get back pay.

Some of these are ‘professional’ services (engineers, etc.) & some are more blue-collar. There’s no need for janitors to clean an unused office building every night. There’s no need for food concessions at a shuttered national park, etc.

What is the relationship of this to “volunteerism” ? I understand that there is a general prohibition on working for free for the US government in the expectation of getting paid latter, but I don’t know the regulatory details?

There is no law against working without pay (at least, not in general), and in fact people working without pay is quite common in modern society. What the 13 Amendment outlawed was involuntary servitude, people working who don’t want to be working (regardless of whether they happen to be paid or not.

That said, there is a law specifically for government workers forbidding them from working without pay. So all of the “essential” personnel who are still working are required to be paid eventually. Just, not now.

The question, then, is all those folks who are in the employ of the federal government but currently furloughed. Past precedent is that these folks would eventually get paid, too. But it’s not required by law, and not guaranteed.

It should be pointed out that the legislation linked above is nothing but a piece of feel-good optics; if the shut-down lasted months, and the only way to get an agreement on re-opening the government was to agree to pay them back only 80% of their back pay (for whatever reason), the Congress would just make new law making that legal.

Further, the legislation doesn’t really change the discussion about whether or not the requirement that they work without receiving pay violates the 13th Amendment (though that’s exactly what it is attempting to do). Telling me I MUST work now to keep my job, but that I will be paid at some unspecified point in the distant future is not significantly different from telling me I must work now to keep my job, but that I probably will be paid at some distant point in the future.

I wonder whether Trump will sign it or allow it to become law without his signature. I can’t see him vetoing it and taking the chance of an override.

His head would asplode!

Emphasis mine. That’s what distinguishes it from involuntary servitude. These people aren’t working because they are absolutely required to. They simply want to keep their job and they are accruing the wages even though they are not being paid. If they wanted to walk out of their job, I’m almost certain they could. Not entirely certain because I’m no expert, but that’s generally what the 13th amendment forbids.

He has already stated that he would sign the legislation into law.

We shall see if you are correct or not, since there are three separate pending lawsuits which claim that the 13th Amendment is being violated. :wink:

Not to get too far off point, but there are laws regulating unpaid labor–i.e., interns–at least in NY and CA. Broadly speaking, you have to be paid (in which case…it’s a job not an internship?) or you have to receive credit from some accredited college or university, and in CA, you have to vouch that the intern would in fact take more resources from your team than if you had no intern at all (I’m paraphrasing). In the entertainment industry people are generally pretty scared of this because of a successful lawsuit over unpaid interns on the movie “Black Swan.” The glossy NY magazines used to be famous for abusing unpaid and uncredited interns, not sure if that’s still the case.

Back on point, the situation of federal workers who remain on the job but unpaid is actually slightly similar to every working stiff. I do a week of work , in the expectation of a paycheck next week, or in two weeks if that’s the pay cycle. If all of a sudden payroll doesn’t come, but it’s promised down the road, I keep working, banking that it will arrive some day.

But…don’t I have a cause of action for unpaid wages? What if the paycheck is suddenly 80% of what was promised?

I know the government operates under different rules than private business, hoping for enlightenment.

Also, I do know some people who were employed by scumbags who couldn’t make payroll–they kept on going, hoping that next week they’d get something, and fearing that if they quit they’d get nothing. Of course in the end they were all running on air like Wile E. Coyote.

To sum up:

  1. There is no guarantee of back pay. Congress must enact back pay legislation and the president must sign it.

  2. In the past, back pay has always been given.

  3. This time, Congress had enacted back pay legislation overwhelmingly, and we must wait to see whether Trump signs it. Trump has previously expressed a callous attitude toward federal employees and he cancelled their next year’s raise. If he vetoes the bill, Congress can theoretically override his veto. Of course they could have done the same thing to prevent or end the shutdown in the first place, but McConnell refused to permit it.

  4. Many jobs that you might think are done by federal employees are actually done by private contractors. They will not get back pay.

Who are the seven assholes who voted AGAINST paying them, and what justification could they possibly offer?

In the private world, yeah - I had that situation and took the business owner to court, won, and was awarded seven times the wages and court costs. (Winning wasn’t guaranteed and collecting was not quite the same success…)

But suing an idiot small business owner is not the same as suing the US Federal government.

My understanding (and apparently contrary to most of the answers here, so I’d be interested to see where I’m wrong) is that it’s the former. As OPM explained in 2015, “Agencies will incur obligations to pay for services performed by excepted employees during a lapse in appropriations, and those employees will be paid after Congress passes and the President signs a new appropriation or continuing resolution.” I’m not sure the legal basis for this (other than the general requirement that the agency fulfill its financial obligations), but if you figure that that furlough is the result of the Anti-Deficiency Act’s bar on authorizing an obligation in excess of funding, it makes sense that agencies incur an obligation for “excepted” employees.

Of course, the agency incurs no obligation to those “non-excepted” employees who are furloughed (i.e., not working and not getting paid), but they have historically always received back pay. They are the primary target of the legislation discussed below about back pay, although the text of the bill includes excepted workers. The bill would serve (as I understand it) to permanently guarantee backpay for both excepted and non-excepted workers (by amending the Anti-Deficiency Act) in this and any future shutdown.

(The final category is employees who are “exempt” from the shutdown for a variety of reasons. They are both working and getting paid).