The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) filed suit against the United States Government on Monday, claiming that their member employees should not be forced to work without pay during the current partial government shutdown.
The suit was filed in the United States Court of Federal Claims and alleges that the government is violating the Fair Labor Standards Act by not paying some government workers their earned overtime on their regularly scheduled payday.
According to the suit, "Employees who are classified as non-exempt from the overtime requirements... were not paid on their Scheduled Payday for work performed after the commencement of the shutdown in excess of the applicable overtime thresholds."
The suit seeks to recover "liquidated damages under the FLSA for themselves and all other FLSA non-exempt Excepted Employees in the amount of any overtime payments to which they were entitled on the Scheduled Payday."
As a result of the partial shutdown, over 400,000 "essential" federal government employees have been working without pay since December 21st of 2018, including border patrol agents.
In a statement provided to CNN, AFGE president J. David Cox said, "Our nation's heroes, AFGE members and their families deserve the decency of knowing when their next paycheck is coming and that they will be paid for their work... Our intent is to force the government and the administration to make all federal employees whole."
The government has partially shut down three times in the last decade. On each occasion, when the government reopened, Congress passed an appropriation ensuring that "essential" workers who continued to work during the shutdown received all their back pay and overtime. It is highly likely that Congress will do so again when the current shutdown ends, which will likely render the lawsuit moot.
Of course, the lawsuit cannot force the shutdown to end, or force the government to be able to predict to employees when Congress will break the current political logjam over funding for President Donald Trump's border wall.