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If federal government shuts down, what will DOL do? Not much

by on
in Employment Law,Human Resources

Barring a sudden and unexpected outbreak of congressional cooperation, the federal government will run out of money on Oct. 1, when the new fiscal year begins. That means the government will shut down—at least temporarily—until the House and Senate can agree on temporary spending measures to fund federal agency operations.

Cabinet secretaries are under orders to furlough nonessential employees until the budget impasse is resolved. What does that mean for Department of Labor (DOL) enforcement activities? The DOL hasn’t released its furlough plan for the coming crisis.

However, a look back to 2011—when the government came within a half hour of shutting down—shows that enforcement efforts will likely grind to a halt. A DOL memo issued then decreed that the department would “continue to produce weekly unemployment insurance claims reports”—but do almost nothing else. Here’s the likely scenario:

  • Of 921 workers in the Employee Benefits Security Administration, only three would be deemed “essential.”
  • The 230 employees of the Office of Labor Management Standards would be reduced to two.
  • OSHA, which normally has 2,252 employees, would get by with a skeleton crew of 228.
  • The Wage and Hour Division—usually 1,804-strong—would be down to six.

However, don’t think you’ll be able to get away with much during the shutdown. Eventually, Congress will approve an FY2014 budget—and all those DOL enforcers will be back, rested and ready to catch labor scofflaws.

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