It doesn’t appear that the shutdown of the federal government that began on Tuesday is likely to end quickly, that that could cause some headaches for workers. Unfortunately, the U.S. Department of Labor has had to put more than 80 percent of its workforce on furlough, leaving only 2,954 Labor Department employees on the job nationwide. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is a division of the Labor Department, and its workforce has been cut even more deeply -- to 5 percent of its usual size. That means a total of 107 people are currently on staff at the EEOC.
The EEOC is the agency primarily responsible for enforcement of our federal employment discrimination laws, including violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which includes sexual harassment. It also enforces many of our laws protecting whistleblowers from retaliation by their employers, as well as provisions prohibiting employers to retaliate against workers who take leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act or who file workers' comp claims.
Another division of the Labor Department that directly impacts employee rights is virtually shut down. Only 6 employees remain on the job at the U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division, which enforces the Fair Labor Standards Act’s minimum wage and overtime rules and our child labor laws, among others. It also handles enforcement when workers’ FMLA leave is denied.
Neither of those divisions will be performing investigations into illegal workplace activities for the duration of the shutdown, although the EEOC’s skeleton staff will continue to accept and process new employment discrimination claims for now.
If you’re experiencing discrimination or are being denied your rightful pay or leave in Minnesota, you still have options. You can always contact an employment law attorney. You can also contact the Minnesota Department of Human Rights to file a discrimination complaint, or the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry’s Labor Standards divisions regarding wage and overtime complaints, child labor issues, or violations of the Minnesota Parental Leave Act.
Source: The Huffington Post, “Government Shutdown To Hit Labor Department Workplace Safety, EEOC Discrimination Investigations,” Dave Jamieson, Sept. 30, 2013