what not to say to friends who have been furloughed by the government shut-down

After last week’s post about things not to say to an out-of-work friend, regular commenter Katie the Fed — who is currently furloughed due to the government shut-down — offered to share her thoughts about what not to say to someone furloughed in the shut-down. And they’re good ones. Here’s what she had to say:

1) “If you’re furloughed, that must mean you weren’t really essential.”

The difference between those who were excepted/essential and those who were not was simply a matter of identifying the absolute bare minimum presence necessary to keep a few of the most essential functions running. The rest of us work on issues for which a two-week absence or so won’t put the country in grave danger.

For the people who remain in the office, many of them are now doing the job of four or more people. You can argue that the bureaucracy is still bloated and government too big (although for those of us in it, we’re accutely aware of hiring freezes and budget reductions that have left us with a lot fewer people to do the same work), but the question of essential/nonessential has nothing to do with it.

It’s also just rude. Most of us made a deliberate decision to go into federal service because we want to serve the country, and it’s just unhelpful to imply that what we do must not be very important.

2) “You’ll get backpay anyway.”

There is precedent for the people who were furloughed to get backpay, as they have received it after previous shutdowns, but it requires a separate authorization from Congress. Without getting too much into politics, the current Congress isn’t seeming too generous to me, and I don’t know that they’ll have an appetite for giving backpay to a bunch of federal employees who didn’t work during the shutdown.

3) “Most government workers don’t really do that much/are overpaid anyway.”

OK, we’ve all heard this and we know it’s a popular perception. I can’t speak for all of the bureaucracy, but I’m flabbergasted by this idea that I don’t do very much and would love to get one of those jobs where that’s true. I’ve put in 60-hour weeks, weekends, holidays, shift work more times than I care to remember, have deployed as a civilian to combat zones, and been on call through crisis after crisis. This is the same for almost everyone else I know. And we’ve been under hiring freezes and budget constraints, so we generally have fewer people to do the same amount of work.

As for the overpaid part, again I can’t speak for the entire bureaucracy. I’m pretty happy with my salary. I could probably make more in the private sector but I’m not in this for the money. But things have been tougher — we haven’t had cost-of-living adjustments in three years, we’ve already dealt with a round of furloughs this year due to the sequester, and there are talks of reductions in force in the coming years if the sequester remains. There’s a lot more uncertainty than there used to be, and the pay hasn’t kept up in the last few years to account for it.

4) “It’s all the fault of [name a political party/official]!”

Especially don’t say this if the person you’re talking to is of the opposite political persuasion. But generally, I think many of us are feeling like political pawns right now, and your political tirade probably isn’t going to help us feel better. I’m pretty smart – I can do my own analysis of the situation and why it’s happening, and I’d prefer that people not use my situation as an opportunity to explain to me what party they think is the problem. Of course some people may enjoy discussing it, but handle with care.

5) “Welcome to what the rest of the country has been going through for the last several years.”

I understand this, and in many ways it’s true. The rest of the country has faced layoffs, uncertainty, lack of pay raises, general uncertainty that we’re largely insulated from in the government. I can, for the most part, generally expect that if I do good work and don’t create problems, I will probably continue to have a job, and that’s more than a lot of people can say. But a lot of that certainty is gone now – as I mentioned above, there have been other furloughs this year, and prospects of reductions in force in the coming years if the sequester remains. There have also been hiring freezes, which mean opportunities for promotion and lateral moves have diminished, so many people just feel stuck with few options.

It’s also just not a helpful statement. Yes, things could always be worse. There are always people in worse situations. But that doesn’t ease our burden right now – this hurts financially and emotionally, and the uncertainty is absolutely exhausting. I have no idea when I’ll see a paycheck again, and I can’t even look for other work in the meantime. So please try not to rub salt in our wounds – we’re just trying to get through it.

{ 161 comments… read them below }

  1. jen*

    Hallelujah! I’m a furloughed fed as well and facing the same comments.

    I’d like to remind a lot of people that during the tech boom when people were making money hand over fist, no one complained about federal employees and their salaries. The comments I got then was, “you should go into the private sector for the easy money.” It wasn’t until the bottom fell out that suddenly the stable fed jobs became a target of everyone’s ire.

  2. Sascha*

    This is a great post. I currently work for a state university, and I’m often lumped into the “government workers” stereotype. There are certainly slackers in government jobs, but there are slackers in corporate jobs, as well. I can recall MANY people I’ve worked with in the corporate world who were horrible employees, and equally as many in the government world who are wonderful. The distribution of people doesn’t change with the location. There are bad and good people everywhere.

    1. PEBCAK*

      Agreed. I have worked for several very large corporations, and nobody really ever got fired (save during lay-offs). Useless people would get assigned easy projects, shuffled around to other departments, or just plain ignored, but few managers went to the trouble to really fire people.

      1. Vicki*

        I recall some people that managers didn’t want to lay off either because that would “cost them” severance. So they just kept those people and shuffled them around. Ack!

  3. Ethyl*

    “Most government workers don’t really do that much/are overpaid anyway.”

    ::seesred:: OMG this is SUCH garbage. I was an INTERN for the federal government and worked WAY more than my allotted 28 hours per week or whatever it was, answered emails constantly, and was even answering questions about my work there months after my internship was over. The full-time people I was working with were even MORE dedicated! This makes me want to Hulk out!

    1. Littlemoose*

      I really hate this comment! When I first got my job, a few people made comments like, “Well, you won’t have to work very hard!” That could not be further from the truth. I have always worked hard, and my coworkers do too. Maybe there are a couple of bad apples, but that is true in every job I’ve held, private or public sector.

      1. Anonymous*

        I feel like most people have a negative view of the “Government Worker” because their interactions with the Government generally come down to;

        1. DMV
        2. Seeing politicians on TV
        3. Paying taxes
        4. Pulled over by police/In trouble with police
        5. Getting parking tickets

        Most people only seem to interact with the Government when they’re in trouble or paying some sort of fee or tax to do something. All pretty negative things. It’s hard to come away from the DMV after paying $100 to register your vehicle feeling “satisfied”.

        1. Joey*

          Not to mention when’s the last time you heard the media give accolades to a government agency? Fraud, waste, and corruption are sexy. Public employees doing a good job are not and will never be.

          1. ThursdaysGeek*

            When I have to renew my tabs, I can put the payment in the mail on Monday, and get them back on Wednesday, every time.

            I think that means that the PO is delivering the mail (different town) the next day, both directions; and our county auditor is turning the request around the same day, including a trip to the PO. I think they are both doing an excellent job.

      2. ChristineSW*

        Amen!! I’ve met and worked with a number of government workers, and they are generally really good people. Granted, these are state and county workers–not federal–but still, the perception is there and I’m slowly learning that the negative stereotypes are just not true. (Okay, maybe not in the case of the DMV…. :P )

        1. LCL*

          The DMV in my state is awesome. I was there two weeks ago while my mom renewed her driver’s license. They were very fast, very efficient with a computerized number system and display on a big screen TV, and they announced everything, and were just totally helpful and kind. Of course to pay for these efficiencies the state closed many of the outlying offices and jobbed out the driving tests to Safety foundations for motorcycles and driving schools for the basic license. Sigh.

          1. Natalie*

            My DMV has a reservation system now, which is freaking amazing. You book an appointment online, you show up at the appointment time, and you’re in and out in 10 minutes.

            1. Bea W*

              That’s sweet. I haven’t been to the DMV in almost 10 years now, because they let us renew by mail. Licenses are good for 5 years, but you only have to go to the DMV (RMV if you are in MA) once every 10 years for an updated photo and eye test. Registration renewals are all done online or by mail.

          2. Rana*

            Yeah, I’ve been impressed with the DMV in most of the states I’ve lived in. I’ve also had good luck with post offices. (So I suspect that the bad ones are in places that are already struggling to provide services – the times I’ve had issues it’s clearly been a case of too many clients, not enough staff, rather than actual incompetence.)

          3. Jazzy Red*

            I once tried to bribe a DMV worker to call my number next, after waiting the usual hour. I told him that I’d give him 5 bucks call my number next. Everyone laughed (which was kind of nice, to break the stress of waiting), but he wasn’t selling his soul so cheaply that day.

        2. Bea W*

          Judging by the lines and the general grumpiness of the people waiting in them, I’m guessing the DMV is not the most pleasant place to work a customer facing job. The only people happy to be there are the kids who just passed their road test and are just getting their license for the first time.

          1. Jamie*

            I think it’s how it’s run. I’ve moved around quite a bit and the DMVs I’ve been in Massachusetts, rural Wisconsin, and northern California were wonderful. Very pleasant.

            The Chicago and surrounding DMVs – I’ve yet to find one where I didn’t leave so angry I wanted to fire people. The little offshoots where you just renew your license are okay – lines too long – but taking the kids to get permits and road tests? It can make a peaceful person want to hurt someone – it’s a stereotype personified in that DMV workers are the most blatantly rude of anyone I have dealt with in a professional capacity. And I’m a model customer – I am pleasant, say hello…get to business…always have everything I need ready to make the transaction move as quickly as possible. But they make you feel like they’re doing you a favor for deigning to wait on you…which breeds crankiness in the people waiting. It’s a vicious cycle.

            1. Rana*

              Huh. It was the ones in California (southern) that were the worst for me – crowded, understaffed, everyone impatient – while the ones in Virginia and Indiana were very nice, and the one I went to here in Chicago was the best. (I think it was one of the slightly more suburban branches.)

              If nothing else, it goes to show that generalizing about the motor vehicles office isn’t a good idea.

    2. Jessa*

      Exactly, this is such garbage. I hate people who think that just because someone works for government they have some easy peasy free ride job.

  4. Anonymous*

    House already approved backpay for workers, the Senate probably won’t vote on it until they break the shutdown, but it would be insane to think they wouldn’t approve it after all is said and done at this point. President Obama has already given verbal support for back pay, too.

    I’m “exempt” and working through the shutdown, and a couple of my family members are non-exempt. I wish I was non-exempt and getting a free, paid vacation at the moment. Most of the talk around the office is people lamenting how they’re exempt and having to work while most everyone else is off.

    1. Anonymous*

      To follow on to my own comment – I’m very thankful for my job, and shutdown or not I put forth my best effort, as I would in any job private or public. I just meant to comment against #1, where the attitude here is people envious of those “non-essential”, not the other way around.

    2. ThisWholeMessSucks*

      Yeah – “free paid vacation” won’t get much sympathy from the many of us still working! In the private sector, we would all charged vacation days (even borrowed if needed) to compensate for the days we aren’t allowed to work. Sounds like govt employees will still have this time to use at a later date!

        1. SAF*

          If it’s like last time, no.

          I went back to a ton of unpaid invoices that were still subject to the legal requirement to be paid within 30 days and a ban on overtime. I spent a LOT of time catching up, couldn’t take a day off for months, and we had to pay a lot of interest on those invoices that couldn’t be paid within 30 days.

          The patent examiners I know will be going back to applications that have passed required response dates, and they’ll see an increase in their backlogs and problems with their production metrics. The VA/SSA folks will see their case backlogs growing and deadlines blowing past, and overtime forbidden.

        2. Elsajeni*

          It also seems unreasonable to refer to “enforced time off that you will probably get paid for at some indeterminate future date, but maybe not” as “paid vacation.”

          1. Xay*


            I’m wondering how many landlords are going to be willing to accept “well, I’ll pay my rent as soon as the government gets around to paying me”?

            1. Ashley*

              Exactly. Even if that money comes through, how are those of us who are reliant on that salary supposed to pay bills until then?

          2. Rana*


            It reminds me uncomfortably of the “oh, lucky teachers, they get summers off” line of thinking. There’s a real difference between actual vacations and involuntary periods in which you’re not allowed to work.

            1. Anon*

              Except for the small detail that teachers kinda know going in that they will be off work each and every summer…it’s not exactly a shocking surprise.

              1. Rana*

                No, but based on my own experiences, it still sucks spending several months going unpaid while still having all kinds of preparation work that needs to be done before that first fall paycheck arrives. One can budget for it, but a paid vacation it is not.

      1. doreen*

        Although I’m not a Fed, when my state was planning a furlough we would not have been permitted to use vacation days – the furlough days would have been unpaid. Instead, what happened was that we ended up with 9 days unpaid leave between FY 2011-2012 and 2012-2013. We’ll be getting paid back for them- over 39 biweekly pay periods starting in March 2015. I’d have much rather been able to use my vacation days but that defeats the purpose of a furlough which is to cut spending, either due to a deficit or because there is no authorization to spend money.

    3. Xay*

      I hear what you are saying, but there are a lot of people, especially in the lower pay grades, who are not in the position to wait on a check and enjoy a “paid vacation” while this drags on.

      1. Anonymous*

        Well the ones currently working won’t be getting paid either, until the shutdown is over.

  5. Shannon313*

    I can’t believe how bold and insensitive people are in general, but things like the shutdown and poor economy seem to turn people into insecure, rabid raccoons eager to make themselves feel better by directing snarky comments at others. I wouldn’t dream of putting someone down or assuming I know what they’re going through, especially now! Our friends work for the border patrol and told us they are basically working without knowing when their next paycheck will arrive. We are in a pretty low-risk area, but it’s still possible they could face a life-or-death situation–without pay! People who might really need a shoulder to cry on or a friendly ear shouldn’t be brushed off or insulted. And don’t even get me started on the political rants. I have blocked 85% of my news feed to avoid politically fueled tirades. I hope this works out soon for Katie and everyone else affected by the shutdown.

      1. Sandrine*

        I have actually deleted people off FB for similar reasons. Too political (in a nasty way, not “here is what I think about it” way) or too religious, off you go. These were not people I knew so well, but I hate “having” to do it :( .

          1. Jamie*

            If you can find a way to block political stuff in real life too let me know.

            And can people stop assuming about other people’s political leanings? Just because someone leads a certain lifestyle doesn’t mean they vote the way you think they do and it certainly doesn’t mean you want to discuss it at work.

    1. Joey*

      Our friends work for the border patrol and told us they are basically working without knowing when their next paycheck will arrive.

      Reminds me of some friends who’ve worked in non-profits.

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        My brother works for the border patrol too, and I was told he has to work, no vacations or leave for now, but there won’t be any pay until this is resolved. He has enough in reserve for a couple more house payments, and I hope it is resolved soon. Otherwise, my pay will be going to his house payment.

  6. Littlemoose*

    +1,000 from a fellow furloughed federal worker (and her unintentional alliteration). I am generally very thankful for my job, which I enjoy, but having it held hostage during political shenanigans is really frustrating. I just want to go to work and do my job. And Katie is right – I can’t really look for another job, even a part-time or temp one, because I have no idea when this will end. My “essential” coworkers who are at the office are being run beyond ragged. We have about three people trying to do the work of about 30. My agency has also seen some of the cuts she’s talking about, like a hiring freeze (little to no replacing of employees who leave for whatever reason) and no COLAs for three years, and I could certainly face an unpaid furlough in the future. Again, I love my job, and I’m grateful to have found it after a year and a half of serious underemployment, but these factors are frustrating and discouraging.

    And as for back pay – I would love it if it happens, obviously, but I’m not counting on it. With the budget situation the way it is, including sequestration, I agree with Katie’s assessment that Congress may not come through on this.

    1. Beth*

      It’s amazing how infrequently people think to offer their help rather than their opinion. This applies across the board to most Difficult Situations, job-related or not.

      1. WorkingMom*

        I think because it’s a government issue people (for some reason) feel entitled to share his or her own opinion on the shutdown, as opposed to be a human being. You know what they say about opinions…

  7. AMG*

    I have simply asked about their general welfare, that I was sorry to see them being used as political pawns, and that I sincerely hope it gets resolved soon. Seems to go over ok.

  8. Carrie in Scotland*

    Many positive thoughts for all furloughed employees -I hope it can be resolved soon.

  9. Lanya*

    I know a few furloughed employees who are using the time to do DIY renovations at home or enjoy long days at the spa. I really hope they have not been offended by my asking if they are enjoying their “unexpected vacation”.

    1. Xay*

      I’ve used my time to go on hikes, spend more time with my son, get more school work done and work on some freelance projects.

      I’d rather be earning my paycheck.

    2. jen*

      What should we be doing, sitting in front of C-Span watching Congress do nothing? Staring at the Blackberry we are not permitted to turn on? Crying and beating our chests in devastation?

      I spent a couple of days last week cleaning my house, then a few more catching up on months worth of DVR’d shows. I went grocery shopping. I surfed the internet. I’m not spending any unnecessary money, so no spas for me. No matter if we get paid eventually or not, right now we have no idea when that would be so a smart furloughed fed is being conservative. My husband does not work for the government so we have breathing room, but there are many feds who are either the only breadwinner or who have a spouse who is also a federal employee. This is stressful for many.

      1. Joey*

        Makes me wonder if you’d qualify for unemployment. I’m guessing it would depend on whether you get back pay or not, but how would they decide when that decision hasn’t been made? Id argue its a temporary layoff, but that’s just me.

        1. Chinook*

          I am guessing they can’t apply for unemployment because the people who process those new claims have been furloughed?

          My heart and good wishes go out to all of you because it hard to live life as a pawn. (I always wanted to be a queen so I could go anywhere in a straight line or a “horsie” so I could jump in an “L” shaped manner.

          1. Cathy G*

            Yes, we qualify for unemployment and there are state workers around to process the claims, though they’re extra busy because of the high volume. Those who eventually get back pay will have to pay back the money they receive now and some states have already said they’ll withhold tax refunds and garnish wages to get it back.

            We also have to follow all the regular rules, which means that in my state, I can’t just collect unemployment and wait for things to restart. I have to be actively looking for work every week, and I have to accept a new job if I find one, though there’s nothing (except my own ethics) preventing me from quitting the new job and going back to the old one if that time comes.

            And, the max I can get from unemployment is about 16% of my regular salary, so while it’s better than $0, it’s really not much.

            I’m also concerned that this whole thing will last about 4 weeks — just long enough for my best and most senior employees to get new jobs — so even when we get the word to start working again, we’ll be hiring and ramping people up and missing our deliverable dates anyway.

    3. fposte*

      The situation is similar enough to straight out losing your job that I think that’s a good check–if you wouldn’t make the comment to somebody who just lost their job, don’t make it to somebody who got furloughed.

  10. Diana*

    Thank you, thank you, Katie the Fed and Alison for bringing these items up to the attention of a national audience. I am a federal agency contractor feeling a little guilty that I have not been furloughed, but I can’t believe the things I hear/read about my colleagues. I am very frustrated about the “they’re just on vacation” attitude so many people not in the federal government seem to have; the disdain for DC-area folks is palpable. So many people are confusing all government workers for Congresspeople. I do happen to be located in the DC area, and although I’ve so far managed to keep my position through this mishegas, it has been a lot harder to do my work in the past week when I interact with so many agencies nationwide. The people I need back at work are located in California, Massachusetts, Colorado, Alabama, and Missouri, so far. The shutdown is not just a punishment to us crazily entitled DC folks raking in the huge dollars while we swing golf clubs all day. It impacts families all over the country.

  11. Brett*

    I’ve learned a lot of the issues come from private sector workers trying to cross over their experience to public sector. (My view from a local government level, but I think it applies up and down the public sector.)

    When they hear of an “across the board” public sector raise, they assume the raise is on top of of a normal cost of living raise. They don’t realize that the public sector no longer gives cost of living raises, nor merit raises.

    When they hear “hiring freeze”, they think that means no new positions. They do not realize it means that positions vacated by retirement or resignation are also frozen.

    Which inevitably leads to “Well, then you didn’t need that many people anyway”. This is a crossover from the idea that layoffs occur when you have labor deadweight. No, we just work a lot more overtime and have backlogs of work that can be measured in months, sometimes years.

    Throw in the recurring belief that all of us are political cronies of the current elected official in power (a cross over from the belief that the boss hires their friends?), and you have the foundations of many of these comments people make to furloughed workers.

    1. Natalie*

      “No, we just work a lot more overtime and have backlogs of work that can be measured in months, sometimes years.”

      Interestingly, I imagine this issue only serves to reinforce the idea that government is, by nature, inefficient. I’ve found myself falling into that same trap when I can’t get a resolution to a fairly simple issue with the big government agency I have to deal with, but of course I really don’t know how much work the poor woman tasked with resolving this problem has.

      1. Anonymous*

        But is that backlog a result of ineffiency? Or because they have consciously determined that a backlog of 6 months to a year is considered acceptable, so that’s how much of the budget they allocated for that position/role?

        1. Natalie*

          I suppose as a regular citizen interacting with the government, one never really knows exactly why this or that agency is being incredibly slow. But my point is that, in my experience, everyone chalks up the slowness to the “that’s just how government is, that’s why they shouldn’t run [program]”. People rarely think the agency maybe severely understaffed due to budget cuts or slowed down by some other limitation (old, outdated computer systems come to mind).

          1. Anonymous*

            Yeah, that’s the issue – It isn’t a company that -wants- to complete all outstanding work and search for new work to grow the business. If it ever does not have a backlog of work built up, then it is paying employees to effectively wait and do nothing until more work/requests come in.

            1. Natalie*

              “It isn’t a company that -wants- to complete all outstanding work and search for new work to grow the business.”

              Yeah, I don’t think we agree here. You’re making a pretty big assumption about how “the government” (which is of course dozens of different organizations, not some monolithic beast) operates, and making another huge assumption about how the private sector operates (again, not a monolithic beast) and then comparing them as thought that comparison was at all meaningful.

              1. Anonymous*

                The backlog situation is pointed directly at a role in which a backlog of requests/forms to process is the role itself, not the government at large or as a whole.

            2. Xay*

              The problem with this analogy for the agency is that flu season happens every year so there is no such thing as “completion”. So the backlog is in ramping up for this year’s epidemic as well as preparing for next year’s. There are always children being born so there are always children who need to be vaccinated. There are millions of at risk adults who are not vaccinated against preventable diseases and little funding to reach them.

              But tell me more about how government should be like a business.

                1. Anonymous*

                  That’s true, but the situation still works. Does your agency staff and purchase vaccines to adminster flu shots to 100% of all citizens each season? Or does it make a determination on what’s an acceptable or target amount given the incoming funding?

                  I didn’t say it should be like a business. My example was why it shouldn’t be like a business.

        2. Stephanie*

          At my old agency (the Patent Office), I heard some of the backlog was intentional to guarantee a revenue stream (the PTO’s fee-funded). But most of the backlog was just due to outside factors like huge upticks in applications (tech sector growth, case law allowing for things like Amazon one-click to be patented, attorneys filing CYA patents, etc.), employee attrition (I think it was around 50% within the first two years), and just overworked employees.

      2. Ellie H.*

        I work in university administration and have experienced some similar issues. After layoffs and many reorganizations (for the sake of efficiency – my opinion is that these did not achieve the desired results!) over the past two years, my office is reduced in staff and assigned even more tasks. There are elements of my job and my coworkers’ with backlogs that are unfortunately also measured in months.

        Many people feel that in academia, there is too much money spent on administration and too many people on administrative staff. When I look at the numbers, some of the comparative amounts spent on different administrative functions can seem pretty staggering to me as well and while I am sure there are improvements that can be made (as in all places, everywhere) my own office currently doesn’t have enough people to perform all the work that needs to be done. I’m constantly in the position of having to attend only to the most urgent matters that arise, and some of those in a less timely fashion than I’d like, while matters that can be postponed somewhat (yet are still very important and often timely!) fall further and further behind. It’s very stressful, and I feel terrible about the circumstances in which I’m not able to provide the most ideal service due to the structure of priorities and lack of manpower, because I care a lot about my job and providing good administrative support with the best of my efforts. And meanwhile, aware that this just further contributes to the negative view of administration in academia.

  12. Xay*

    Thanks. Related – not everyone who has been furloughed is a federal employee. There are a lot of federal contract employees who work for private companies (many of which are small businesses of less than 100 employees) who have also been affected and have no chance of receiving any back pay.

    1. Anonymous*

      Both my husband and I are federal contractors and we have both been furloughed. We will not be receiving back pay.

    2. Jen the Gem*

      Thanks so much for this post! I’m a federal contract employee who is furloughed. We were told to take PTO or leave without pay for the span of the shutdown. No back pay for us. It’s rough situation for all.

      1. Xay*

        My contracting company has furloughed most of their in office staff as well as those of us who work on site at federal agencies. We are able to use paid time off but once that runs out, we don’t get paid.

    3. Garrett*

      My partner is in the same situation. He is burning through vacation and can go in a hole for 2 weeks, but he won’t get any back pay and assuming this doesn’t end quickly, he won’t even have any vacation for Christmas.

    4. Andrea*

      I work for a large defense contractor. Mgmt is forcing PTO for indirect staff this week. We can only work 24 of our regular 40. I was able to get onto a project that isn’t federal so I have work to do, but for a couple hours on friday, I was making plans to take this thursday and friday off. All of our IT staff, for instance, are only working 24 hours this week.

  13. Rindle*

    Katie, thanks from another fed for your post. I couldn’t have said it better myself and plan to share this on my FB wall.

  14. Cathy*

    Please also remember that the furlough affects many thousands of us who are not federal workers. We’re the employees of contractors and service providers who have received stop work orders as a result of the shutdown.

    Some of us can use our vacation time, but once that’s gone, we’ll be unpaid and there’s no hope of any back pay for us. My family is lucky because we have sufficient savings to see us through. However, the shutdown means we won’t be going home for the holidays (no vacation time left), we won’t be going out to dinner or to the movies, and we won’t be buying the car we had planned. So the effects are reaching into all kinds of businesses, and they will last long after the government reopens.

    1. Cathy G*

      Hmm. There are 2 different Cathys posting in this thread. The post above is my only post, and I’ll be Cathy G for future posts.

  15. ChristineSW*

    Katie – Thank you so much for sharing your perspective as well as suggestions for interacting with furloughed employees. It’s such a tough situation, and it hurts all Americans, not just the Government employees. Keeping you and all the other Federal employees on this site–I’m sure it’s really tough regardless of your current status.

  16. Dan*

    I’m a contractor for a federal government agency, and TBH, it’s a mixed bag.


    It’s looking like congress is going to authorize back pay for the furloughed workers. As a taxpayer, I am outraged. People shouldn’t be getting paid from taxpayer dollars for doing nothing. Oh, make no mistake: My outrage is directed at congress who is completely responsible for this mess, not the workers who have no choice.

    What I will also say is that it’s more challenging to be a contractor than a fed right now. Some of my coworkers are on stop work orders. Lockheed Martin has furloughed 2500 employees, who will not get “back pay” when things return to normal.


    I do not believe for one moment that professional government workers are over paid. In fact, they’re significantly underpaid. One reason I am a contractor is because the pay is so, so much better. Coming out of school, I was qualified at the GS9 level, which isn’t a ton of money for an urban area. My initial offer was 25% better than that, plus I get to work (and live) out in the suburbs where the commutes are shorter and the COL is cheaper.

    1. shawn*

      Yup. I work for a company that has federal contracts to perform work onsite. The majority of those staff members can’t go to work since the facilities are closed. Unless something out of the ordinary happens, these folks won’t be getting any sort of back pay since they aren’t federal govt employees. There just is no money to give them since we can bill/collect revenue for work that wasn’t performed. It’s a total bummer, but it really is out of our hands. Obviously, the greatest single impact is to those employees not getting paid, but this is pretty horrible for our company as well. That’s revenue down the drain we will never be able to recover.

    2. Cathy*

      I work for state government and I am very glad of a clause we have in our ‘contract’: if I am available, ready and willing to work and my *employer* is the one causing there to be no work, I get paid. This covers situations like this furlough (we had one a couple years ago, but it was only 3 days thank Diety) and the week my office building was 4 feet underwater.

      1. Chinook*

        I have read some where that the contractors can’t even volunteer their services which has meant some Catholics in the military are going without a priest for mass or his other roles because they are contractors and not military members. It boggles my mind, if it is true.

        1. Cathy G*

          (I’m not the Cathy to whom you previously replied.)

          It’s true that we are not allowed to do volunteer work for our employer or directly for the federal government if we’ve been furloughed. Labor law requires payment of at least the minimum wage for all work performed, so people who are on furlough cannot be allowed to perform work if there’s no money to pay them.

          1. doreen*

            It’s true that the Catholic chaplains who are contractors rather than members of the military cannot volunteer their services on the base, but everything I’ve seen has been specific to volunteering on-base rather than at an off-base location.

    3. KellyK*

      As far as the back pay, they were ready and willing to work, and were told not to. I don’t really think they should be penalized for that.

      Also, there’s actually a loophole where exempt government employees can be paid less than their full salary during a week that they’re furloughed, despite the fact that you can’t legally do that to a non-government employee.

      Based on that, I see no problem with giving people back pay (especially since they’re going to more than earn it when they come back to weeks worth of piled-up work).

  17. Anonymous*

    I wasn’t impacted (well sort of) by this layoff (yet, if they keep it up I will be) but I had a very similar situation (state layoff) and during that time all the family who said things like “Good! We don’t need all those extra people, oh but I don’t mean you.” and “All those damn state employees are just lazy, oh but not you.” was extremely painful. I’d just taken the job, the position was still on probation for a temporary grant and then I got the shutdown and because of my specific job I was one of the few in my department who was nonessential. I stayed home in bed and didn’t manage to do much of anything for that chunk of time. It was horrible, it wasn’t a super fun vacation. It wasn’t a paid holiday. It was being laid off and not knowing if I’d get to go back to work and being hung out to dry as a political pawn.

    Things I wish someone had said, “Can I come over and hang out if I bring a bottle of wine and a movie?” “Do you want to talk about it?”

  18. SAF*

    I am currently unemployed – I work in the arts, and the grant funding my project relied on vanished.

    My husband is a fed. He works for an agency that can fund themselves for a few weeks, so he’s still working for now, but we don’t know when the paycheck will arrive, and he may end up on furlough.

    Many of my friends are feds, and they would rather be at work, earning their paychecks and getting their work done. Instead they are at home, not knowing if or when they will be paid, knowing that their work is piling up and important things are being delayed.

    I was a fed during the last major shutdown (95-96). I know how they feel.

    I hope this madness ends soon.

  19. Joey*

    Wouldn’t it be more accurate to say that people don’t really understand the definition of essential (including the federal govt.)?

    Sure there are some jobs that are clearly essential, but for tons of other jobs there’s a lot of inconsistency in how its being applied.

    I think its also incumbent upon those non-essential employees to accept that they really are “non essential”. As you say (and I agree), it’s not that you’re unimportant, its that sending you home for a little while isn’t going to be a life and death situation.

    1. Anonymous*

      To me, the definition of “essential” isn’t “What’s required to keep the agency afloat” but more “what isn’t an immediate threat to life, liberty, or property”?

      1. Xay*

        Exactly. The federal agency I work in is primarily using Public Health Commissioned Corps officers right because they cannot be furloughed. This doesn’t make those who have been furloughed less essential because the Commissioned Corps officers are doing their jobs too.

    2. MousyNon*

      Not a life and death situation or not an IMMEDIATE life and death situation? Because I’ll tell you, I’m really, really concerned that food and environmental (water table, etc) safety aren’t considered fully ‘essential.’

        1. Windchime*

          Yeah, and the government shutdown means that WIC could be unfunded, which means that the set of 2 month old twins that my relative has could potentially have no source of food sometime very soon. Fortunately, there is extended family who can help make up the difference, but seriously–what the hell are our politicians thinking!?

    3. TychaBrahe*

      I am so furious at people who are not understanding this, but “essential” has a different meaning here than outside, just like “theory” in science is not a good guess, or “racism” in sociology is not just hating someone of a different race.

      Think about a city or a hospital. On Christmas and New Year’s, a lot of people have the day off. The billing department is closed. Elective surgeries are not scheduled. No one gets a nose job on Christmas.

      But the hospital is still open. There are still doctors and nurses, pharmacists and pathologists, janitors and admission clerks, orderlies and respiratory therapists, chaplains and social workers. Maybe not as many, but they are there or they are on call. (I remember vividly one childhood Christmas Eve when our party at a friend’s house was cut short because someone had been in a car accident and needed my father, a surgeon.) The hospital is open for business. This doesn’t mean that fundraising and administration aren’t important to a hospital. But they can wait until the holiday is over. No one is going to die because a policy revision wasn’t drafted in time.

  20. Anon this time*

    Is it ok to complain in the presence of furloughed people about the smug congresscritters who’re proclaiming that they *need* their paychecks because they have mortgages/families to support?

    Like the average federal worker doesn’t have a mortgage or family, or missing a rent check is somehow better than missing a mortgage payment. /fume

    1. Chrissi*

      Oh, I read those comments and about died. She (the congresswoman) literally said I can’t afford not to get a paycheck, and I thought, neither can the furloughed employees and contractors you nitwit! Can anyone really be that oblivious?

          1. Rana*

            Or that they’re only thinking about themselves and their own immediate situation – the rest of us aren’t quite real to many of them.

  21. Stephanie*


    LOL, no. I used to work at an agency that was fee-funded and had giant backlogs. We were evaluated on production quotas and people worked crazy hours to keep up with quota (or to get promotions/bonuses). I’m sure there are government employees who don’t work very hard (as there are anywhere), but that definitely wasn’t the case at my agency.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Stephanie, this is off-topic, but sort of related to the backlog…you said you worked at the Patent Office. Is that correct? Can I ask a couple of questions for something in my book? You can email me at aelizabethwest at gmail.com, assuming you see this reply. I’m late to the party today. Thank you.

  22. Natalie*

    I was pretty surprised to find out from some friends doing Americorps that they are expected to keep working without being paid until the shutdown is resolved. For some reason I assumed the funding for Americorps was separate. Obviously this situation is probably painful for everyone not getting paid, but I find it especially insulting for Americorps folks because they only make about $10K a year plus food stamps. You can barely survive when you’re getting your paycheck!

    And FWIW, I have 3 close friends who did/are doing a year of service and none of them are recent grads living at home.

    1. EM*

      I was a VISTA for a year and my service year is over with, but I still have friends who decided to do a 2nd year. I feel really badly for them. It sucks. You can barely pay your bills on the stipend given and without that money, it’s going to be almost impossible.

      I do have some friends who have parents that are willing to help support them, but I have others who have no familial support.

    2. City Year*

      My boyfriend did two years of City Year a couple years back and has a lot of friends who are still serving. These are people who are hard working, dedicated, and are giving up their time to serve a population that tends to fall through the cracks. You’re right – they can juuuuuust baaaarely survive on their salaries, and are actually encouraged to apply for government assistance. Now, not only are they not receiving their teeny tiny paychecks, a lot of them aren’t receiving their food stamps, either. It’s really embarrassing that these people, who are doing an amazing, selfless thing, aren’t being taken care of.

  23. Brton3*

    I must say that the notion government workers make so much more than private sector workers is a total canard. It may be true only in the very lowest ranks of secretaries and assistants, where the private sector is loathe to hire anyone in the first place and pays starvation wages whereas the government recognizes that $30K is a decent starting salary whereas minimum wage is not.

    Once you get into the mid levels there are acres of people making $50K who might be getting twice that for equivalent work in the private sector. I worked for a state government for a while and I know this was true in my situation. There are many studies not done by the Heritage Foundation that have demonstrated this over and over.

    The only other truth to this statement is that government workers do tend to have good benefits. Again this is because the private sector has squeezed these out over time, not because the government has larded up its compensation. I am truly sorry that people who do hard work in the private sector might not have health insurance, but that’s no reason to begrudge public sector workers for what they get.

    I agree with Katie that there are probably poorly run or even corrupt departments and offices where compensation is out of whack, but it’s not the case generally.

    1. Xay*

      My first post college job was in state government as a secretary. $22K salary in 2004 – which was much higher than any of the private sector offers I had.

  24. Ruffingit*

    I feel sorry for anyone having to deal with this right now, not just the economic impact, but the social one too. So many people are downright stupid when it comes to understanding federal jobs and the shutdown in the general. Having to listen to this kind of commentary day in and day out has got to be infuriating to say the least.

    And the back pay thing…yeah, it doesn’t matter if you get back pay, your bills still need to be paid RIGHT NOW. So back pay is nice, but does nothing to help you in the moment. That’s like telling someone “Oh, you’ll get paid in six months so no big deal.” But um, the rent has to be paid in two weeks…

  25. E*

    As far as the pay thing goes, this depends entirely on your actual job. I work for a nonprofit and am way underpaid compared to my friends who work for the federal government. It’s a fact, and widely held sentiment, that in our field, if you work as a federal employee, you do enjoy better benefits and higher pay than you do in the private or nonprofit sector.

    I know this is not the norm as far as federal employment goes, and please don’t think I’m unsympathetic about the situation, I guess I’m just playing devil’s advocate here.

  26. Tiff*

    It’s been so easy to get to work since the shutdown. My husband used the time to get yet another IT cert and keep his credentials together.

  27. Bea W*

    Excellent article! Thank you Katie!

    2) Even if you for sure knew you would get back-pay, in the mean time you have 0 income! ZERO! You need money to pay the mortgage and feed your family now, not a month from now. :(

    5) This reminded me of something my mom’s ex-2nd husband, who was from the Israeli occupied territories, said when 9/11 happened. “Now you know what it’s like.” There’s just no way to say this to someone and have come across as insightful, helpful, or monumentally eye-opening.

    Your average federal employee has no control over the economy or private business deciding to lay off thousands of people. Not only is it not helpful, but it also implies that the person has some sort of control over something they have absolutely no control over. It’s almost like saying, “It was the government’s fault the economy tanked and my company laid 1/2 of us off. Now you’re out of work. Karma’s a b!tch, ain’t it?”

  28. Keli*

    Katie the Fed – thank you. I’m a Fed too. Still ordered to work, but no idea when the paycheck will reflect it. This is not only hard for the family budget, but very hard on morale for the few of us left on a skeleton crew to keep up with the work load. I would be happy to join 800,000 or so non-working furloughed employees and the rest of us unpaid working folks for a march on Capitol Hill. Anybody up for it?
    Wait. We can’t afford such shenanigans because we’re not getting paid. Grrrrr . . .

  29. Iain Clarke*

    First of all, you have my sympathies – this current situation must be very stressful with the uncertainty. As others have said better, even if you do get back pay, you can’t go to the supermarket and say “I’ll pay for this food when an elected official blinks in the giant game of chicken”.

    That said, I am curious about one bit:
    ” and I can’t even look for other work in the meantime.”

    What’s stopping you? Are you not allowed, or is it that being DC based, there are so many other people furloughed there’s no work to look for?


    1. PJ*

      I’m guessing here it’s because they must be available to come back to work on a moment’s notice when summoned.

      And, since they will now be receiving back pay, they are likely ineligible for unemployment.

    2. Elysian*

      Lots of (perhaps most?) federal workers have it in their employment agreement that they can’t work somewhere else and for the feds at the same time. It creates conflicts of interest and such. I was even turned down from an (unpaid, part-time) federal internship once because I wanted to moonlight at a place that would pay me. They told me that the hours wouldn’t be a problem, but that they couldn’t have someone in the department that was also working elsewhere. So… there’s that.

  30. JuliB*

    I’ve worked with government at different levels through my own job, bit never on the federal level.

    I will frequently correct my conservative friends and relatives and explain that many workers care, are smart, work hard and work a lot. However, there are a lot who don’t and it’s very difficult to get rid of them. Not impossible, but there’s such a web of politics that overlay everything union related that many will not try. And those who do are grieved constantly.

    I’m a conservative who thinks government is way too bloated, not just because of what I just stated, but because the mandate continues to grow.

    And at a separate level, bureaucracies tend to grow and grow over time regardless of the two statements above. So I think there’s a lot of anger towards the ever-growing public sector, and unfortunately, good people get tarred.

  31. A Teacher*

    #3: Teachers get that one all the time. That’s all.

    For all of you that are furloughed, I’m sorry it is such a mess and I hope that action is taken soon.

    1. Ruffingit*

      It’s appalling that teachers hear that all the time. As I tell my friend who has taught for many years “You do more work in 9 months than most people do in two years and you get paid about half as much.” Disrespect for teachers is one of my hot button issues.

  32. Tai*

    I am so sorry that this has happened. It cannot be easy.

    A good friend of mine is also furloughed, and the uncertainty really is terrible. He is a relatively new government employee without much in savings, so I don’t know what he will do to make ends meet if this goes on for another two weeks.

  33. Anonymous Today*

    Thank you Katie the Fed. My spouse is a fed employee whose work is currently “funded” for the next few days, so not furloughed, yet. However, the support staff is furloughed and the people who process the paychecks are furloughed, so who knows when the next paychecks will get processed. As for government bloat, one of the things that many people don’t realize is that there are fewer Federal employees per capita today than in the past 40 years. So lots of work is still getting done by fewer people. We should be proud of the work and the work ethic of our federal government employees, keeping us safe and healthy and moving around the country…things we don’t often consider when we see long lines or media reports of waste or arguments between competing interests or any of a number of things that frustrate us about the workings of government. Anyone who is enjoying the suffering of these hard-working people ought to be ashamed.

  34. JamesS*

    There are also some of us who don’t work for the government affected by this. I’m currently the only person sitting in a hotel in a national park.

  35. singpretty*

    I’m a fellow civil servant (but not furloughed), THANK YOU. I’m so tired of hearing so much of this from people. It’s amazing to have people bitch about our cushy jobs and then scream at us about how long it takes to get something done (because the downturn meant that no one who left got replaced for years)….. yeah, me and cushy job that had me covering 3 desks in bankruptcy at the height of the great recession…..

    1. Ann Furthermore*

      My theory about why unemployment is staying so high is that companies have zero incentive to grow their workforces. People who survived layoffs had to pick up the work left behind, and most people did it willingly because they were afraid it would be their heads on the chopping block the next time around. Fast forward a few years and things have started to improve, but unemployment is still high. Surely it’s the fault of those Democrats, right? Nope. Well OK, then we must be able to blame it on the Republicans, right? Nope. It’s much more simple than that. Companies who laid people off in droves learned that the same amount of work could get done with way fewer people, which improved the bottom line. So now, they’re not interested in hiring back any of the positions they eliminated, because to do so would impact earnings.

  36. Ann Furthermore*

    3) “Most government workers don’t really do that much/are overpaid anyway.”

    OK, whether that is true or not, what an idiotic thing to say to anyone! I really hope this shutdown ends soon, and everyone who has been furloughed because of it can go back to work.

    Now I am not a federal employee, nor have I ever been, but I did spend a few years doing software consulting work for some federal agencies, so I got a look at how some (certainly not all) agencies work. Of course, you can find bad employees wherever you go, be it in the public or private sectors, but I will say that there is a different vibe in the public sector than from your standard-issue corporate environment. And, some of the government people I worked with were great — one woman still, more than 10 years later, stands out as one of the smartest people I’ve ever worked with.

    But…I experienced things working at federal agencies that I’ve never encountered in the private sector, and I’ve been working in corporate America in one fashion or another for about 25 years. While working for an extremely large agency (one that issues a certain 9-digit number to everyone), the team I was working on was told specifically to meet in conference rooms where the doors shut when discussing new business process design. This was because some of our conversations had been overheard, and some employees had gone to their managers wondering if, because the new ERP system sounded like it would result in more keystrokes per transaction, employees who had to use it would be getting a raise because they’d be having to “work harder.” This is a direct quote from one of the agency’s managers. If anyone in a corporate setting asked a question like that, they would be laughed out to the street.

    On another occasion, I worked at a DoD agency for a few months, and because of the high security, and when, where, and how I was able to access the facility, I was not able to be in the office until about 9 in the morning. The key person I was working with normally worked from 5AM until 1PM, and for the entire time I was there, refused to adjust his work schedule. That meant we only had about 4 hours to work together each day, so the client really wasn’t getting the most for the money they were spending for my time. It’s entirely possible that he had outside commitments that made it impossible to change his schedule, but from the way he behaved my perception was that he just didn’t want to do that, so he didn’t. And no one even batted an eyelash…I was told “Ken leaves at 1 each day.” not, “Ken has to do X thing each day (pick up/drop off kids, care for an ailing parent, whatever) and needs to leave at 1PM, which is why he comes in so early,” or even, “Ken has daily personal obligations and must leave by 1PM each day.” It was very odd, especially given that I was only going to be there 9-12 weeks.

    There were quite a few people who were just coasting until retirement, but at the company I work for now, there is a list of people who do this same thing as long as my arm. And there were the people who always seemed to be playing computer games no matter when you walked by their desks, but again — plenty of people in the private sector do that too and somehow keep getting away with it. That’s a trick I’d like to learn.

    Before I started doing this kind of consulting work, I’d never given the cliche about government workers much thought. But then after seeing things like this happen, it’s not that I started to believe it, but I WAS able to see where it had come from.

    So…my point is not to argue the point with you, because I don’t really think it’s true, but to give you a different point of view so you could perhaps see what makes people believe this tired old cliche.

  37. Meg*

    I was a federal contractor, and my contract expired the end of August. I chose not to renew, and accept a position in the private sector (still a contractor).

    Had I stayed, my agency is shut down, and I would have been without work for over a week at least, until operations are up and running. And contractors are definitely non-essential personnel. And contractors don’t get back pay. If we don’t work, we don’t get paid.

    It’s not just federal employees affected; federal contractors are hit pretty hard, especially since we either have to make up this time to get paid (if allowed), or just eat the pay loss because we have no billable hours.

  38. Anonymous Today*

    Just a note on the idea that only in government do people have the idea that additional work or inconvenience deserves a raise or extra compensation of some type. Two situations come to mind: 1. I worked for a Fortune 100 company where one of the EVPs actually sent an email to the CEO complaining that when he had to travel for meetings or events he had to find pet care for his two dogs. He felt he should be given extra time off because it took him quite a bit of his time outside the office to make arrangements for that care and he should also be reimbursed for his pet care expenses. This from a man who was taking home more than 250,000 a year, net, not gross. 2. At another Fortune 100 company, one of the staff came to the VP of HR wondering when she was going to get her raise because she had completed her degree.
    Some people just have a shocking sense of entitlement or at least a disconnect between what is the responsibility of the employer and what is their personal responsibility.
    So, the point I hope I am making is that it’s not only in goverment that some employees have that entitlement mindset. Unfortunately, it can be in any workplace.

  39. Emma*

    In my area, two local coffee shops are offering free coffee to furloughed federal employees. That’s so nice of them. These places will continue to get my business once this nonsense is over (inb4 “they’re not getting your business because you’re getting free stuff!” I do buy lattes, pastries, etc. from them). I appreciate these shops’ generosity.

    What sort of nice gestures have you all found in your communities re: the shutdown?

  40. Is it just me, or....?*

    Please forgive me if the answer to this question is somewhere above. I tried to read comments very closely and I didn’t see this one addressed.

    I work for a non-profit that is primarily federally funded. We are cancelling scheduled services left and right and will close outright at the end of business Friday if the federal budget isn’t passed by then.

    Local Employment Security officials have advised our management that staff can “choose” to volunteer their time until the budget crisis is resolved, so that is what we are being encouraged to do. But my understanding of FSLA is that all hours worked must be accounted/paid for. I tried to contact the FSLA person in the local state Employment Security office to find out what the correct interpretation is (I am not an HR person), but that office is… you guessed it… closed until further notice due to the federal budget crisis.

    Our HR person is repeating this “volunteering” line, so I’d like to know for sure whether/not it’s correct. Does it make a difference that this is a non-profit and not a true government agency?

  41. Katrina Bass*

    I’m so glad I caught up on my AAM reading this morning. I’m touching base with our government employee clients today, most of whom likely have been furloughed. I’m just calling to see if we can help or if we need to start contingency planning or anything, but I feel better prepared. Thanks, Katie :)

  42. Bob*

    I am an “essential,” “exempt,” “excepted” Federal Agent. The “government” is so confused that they have 3 word descriptions that describe me and my status.. Pathetic. Having to go to work every day knowing I am not getting paid (yes, I know I will eventually, but tell me and my creditors who are hounding me when this will occur) is thoroughly demoralizing to me and all of my co-workers. Please don’t give me any jive about how I am one of those rich overpaid government workers. I drive a 14 year old car. I live in a very modest home. I have zero toys (campers, ATVs, jet-skis, boats, guns, motorcycles etc). I love my work and am dedicated to providing my service to my country. I also, however, signed up to do this as a PAID career. I don’t work for free! I have bills. All during the 90s I was in the private sector making even less money, getting laid off all the time, and stressing constantly about how I would pay bills. Now I am in the government and going through the same thing. I would like to congratulate everyone who voted for many of these goons in Congress and especially the “President” who have been so irresponsible with our money. They don’t have a clue as to what they are doing or are supposed to do. I will continue to show up for work without pay, but hope DC comes to their senses soon!

      1. De Minimis*

        Forgot to mention, we have a crazy situation at my workplace where we have groups of employees who aren’t funded from direct federal monies, [they are still federal employees but they are funded through Medicare, Medicaid, etc] so they are actually being paid and able to take leave as normal. Not their fault, but somewhat tough for morale for the rest.

  43. Anon*

    Thank you- as a fellow furloughed fed married to a furloughed fed, I would just like to add to the list “enjoy your vacation”. Not knowing when/if we will be recalled or when we will see our next paycheck, this is definitely not a vacation! Even the excepted folks aren’t paid until it is over so that wouldn’t be much of a relief. I’m just hoping to go back to work on Tuesday.

  44. Bobby Digital*

    I’m coming in realllly late here, but I do have a question about backpay.

    Upthread, someone commented that feds deserve backpay because they are (to paraphrase) willing, able, and ready to go to work.

    I think I have a hard time differentiating this from situations that have been covered on AAM before, wherein people’s hours have been cut, pay lowered, vacation days forced, etc. And the answer always (or usually) is: yes, it’s legal. You have to be paid for time you work but they can change your schedule, benefits, and/or salary at any time they choose. In turn, you can then choose whether or not you want to stay.

    How/why is this different for feds? Does it have to do with the quantity of workers furloughed?

    1. Bobby Digital*

      To be clear (even though I’m probably clarifying to a week-too-late black hole of sorts), I’m not necessarily challenging the idea of backpay. I think I’m simply wondering what the difference is. Small-scale politics that are completely out of an employee’s hands play into private-sector schedule cuts, too.

  45. De Minimis*

    There’s nothing that entitles feds to backpay, I think it’s just recognized that it’s smart policy and the backlash of not authorizing it would be pretty severe—especially when you have a lot of people who are working unpaid through the shutdown.

    1. Bobby Digital*

      Yeah, that’s a good point: unlike most schedule/pay cut scenarios, the public is very aware of this situation. And the public votes.

Comments are closed.