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Shutdown lawsuit grows, feds to be told of eligibility

March 9, 2015 (Photo Credit: Mike Morones)

Hundreds of thousands of federal employees will soon be notified of their eligibility to participate in a multimillion dollar lawsuit to recoup financial damages from the 2013 government shutdown.

On March 9, the Justice Department will begin sending out notices to federal employees deemed "essential" during the shutdown – those who reported to work but were not paid until the shutdown was over – to let them know they can join the collective-action lawsuit.

The plaintiffs are asking for damages equal to the minimum wage for one week plus double the amount of overtime any employee worked — or $290 or more per employee.

The lawsuit began when a small group of federal employees sued the government on Oct. 24, 2013. Their argument: For the pay period that began Sept. 22 and ended Oct. 5, 2013, the federal government paid for only one week, which put many employees below minimum wage during the second week.

Even though employees were later paid for that work, they suffered losses from the initial shorted paycheck. Federal employees were unable to pay bills on time and had to deal with creditors and should be eligible for additional damages as a result, according to the lawsuit.

The government shutdown — when Congress was unable to pass appropriations bills or a continuing resolution before the beginning of the fiscal year — lasted from Oct. 1 to Oct. 16

Heidi Burakiewicz, partner at law firm Mehri and Skalet, PLLC., who represents the federal employees in the lawsuit, said some workers took months to recovery financially from the government shutdown.

"It is important for federal employees to know of their opportunity to join this lawsuit and to finally receive what is owed to them. They should not be financially punished for circumstances beyond their control," Burakiewicz said.

Essential employees who wish to join the case before they receive a notice in the mail can do so here.

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