The federal government shutdown has put most federal agency employees who deal with relationships between U.S. employers and their employees off work for the duration. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) field offices are closed and approximately 2,000 agency employees have been sent home, leaving only about 100 staffers still on duty to attend to functions deemed essential.
The EEOC website advises individuals who wish to file charges that the time limit to do so (usually 300 days from the complained-of action, with just a few exceptions where the time limit is 180 days) is not tolled by the agency's shutdown. The website indicates that the same is true for charging parties who have received notices of right to sue, who have 90 days from their receipt of the notice to file an action.
The EEOC website further advises individuals to complete an online assessment if they wish to file charges and their time to file is near expiration. This assessment provides access to an intake questionnaire that the aggrieved person may complete and mail or send via facsimile to the agency. The EEOC will continue to accept and process charges but will not pursue investigations or hold mediations during the government shutdown. The EEOC will also seek continuances for lawsuits in progress and will suspend litigation activities in cases where the court grants the requested continuance.
The EEOC has not provided information to employers regarding the effect of the shutdown on deadlines for charge responses and responses to information requests. To be on the safe side, employers who will not submit responses by mail or other delivery method within established deadlines may wish to confirm by letter to the agency that the employer will presume an extension is approved through the end of the government shutdown period until and unless notified otherwise.
National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) field offices are similarly closed. The agency is currently running with even more of a skeleton crew than the EEOC, with only about a dozen employees still on the job and about 1,600 on furlough. The NLRB website provides notice of a sua sponte extension of time to file or serve any document for which grant of an extension is permitted by law of a day for each full or partial day the agency is closed. Because the law related to time for filing of charges during an interruption in the Board's normal operations is unclear, the notice encourages filing via facsimile within the normal time period allowed. The website notice provides additional information regarding postponement of unfair labor practice hearings and representation elections and hearings.
OSHA has temporarily ceased all operations that do not relate to emergencies involving safety and health complaints that involve potentially hazardous conditions presenting high risk of death or serious physical harm. The Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division has also suspended nearly all operations and furloughed all but a handful of employees.