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Monday, October 14, 2013

An Essential Employee

It goes without saying that many who read this blog are government employees. During the US government's quasi-shutdown, many readers are feeling the pain of the political posturing that is going on in the Federal City. Whilst many people think that government service jobs are safe and secure jobs, the current mess highlights the perils of working for the government.

The Washington Post notes this about the different types of employees that work for the federal government: "Does a shutdown mean everyone who works for the federal government has to go home?

Not exactly. The laws and regulations governing shutdowns separate federal workers into "essential" and "non-essential." (Actually, the preferred term nowadays is "excepted" and "non-excepted." This was tweaked in 1995 because "non-essential" seemed a bit hurtful. But we'll keep things simple.)

The Office of Management and Budget recently ordered managers at all federal agencies to conduct reviews to see which of their employees fall into each of these two categories. If a shutdown hits, the essential workers stick around, albeit without pay. The non-essential workers have to go home after a half-day of preparing to close shop."

You read that right, "essential employees" get to work for the government without getting paid during the shutdown. "The 1.3 million or so "essential" civilian employees who stay on could well see their next paychecks delayed if the shutdown extends beyond Oct. 15. They should, however, receive retroactive pay if and when Congress decides to fund the government again.

The 1.4 million active-service military members, meanwhile, will get paid no matter how long the shutdown lasts. That's because the House and Senate specifically passed a bill to guarantee active-duty military pay even when the government is closed."

Government workers, like most in the corporate world, are a few pay periods behind when it comes to getting paid. So, the pay checks they're getting now is for work done weeks ago. As noted in the article, that buffer extends until tomorrow.

As a community, we can help take the edge off the situation. We can hold pot-luck dinners, invite each other over for a meal, car pool, or any other way that lessens the burden that the current situation puts us all in.

So for all of you federal workers and contractors, my thoughts and prayers are with you. If you're ever in the area, the first pint's on me.

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