Another contrived government shutdown compromises enforcement of workplace protections

After making a number of threats over the past year, the Trump Administration recently imposed a Federal government shutdown with no end in sight. The Trump Administration has forced the shutdown in an effort to extract money for the construction and maintenance of a wall across the entire border between the United States and Mexico. The Trump Administration has shut down the Federal government on this basis despite previously promising multiple times to make Mexico pay for the wall. In any event, the cost to construct the wall could be approximately $70 billion – with an additional $150 million in maintenance costs every year – which greatly exceeds what the Trump Administration has demanded as a condition for ending the shutdown.

This unfortunate situation calls to mind another unnecessary Federal government shutdown, which happened in 2013. At that time, Republicans led by Senator Ted Cruz forced the shutdown in an attempt to prevent implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“ACA”). After almost 3 weeks, the Republican leadership in Congress relented and passed funding legislation to end the shutdown. The ACA was then implemented, saving countless lives and otherwise benefitting many millions of families. Notably given current circumstances, the country mainly blamed the Republican leadership for the hardship caused by the shutdown in 2013.

Fast forward to the present, and the country faces another shutdown – this time, in the midst of the holiday season. As a result, hundreds of thousands of Federal employees have lost the income that sustains their families at a significant time. More to the point for the nation as a whole, the shutdown has undercut the ability to enforce workplace laws. The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), which investigates and prosecutes harassment, retaliation, and other civil rights claims filed under employment law, has essentially closed its doors for lack of funding due to the shutdown. Although the United States Department of Labor (“DOL”) and the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) have not lost their funding yet, the politically volatile environment illustrated by the shutdown – coupled with the Trump Administration’s restrictive regulatory and rule-making actions over the past 2 years – have undermined the DOL’s and NLRB’s ability to address effectively wage theft, employee misclassification, joint employer schemes, and other workplace violations.