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The Government Shutdown's Effect On Employees' Mental Health


The current federal government shutdown is the longest in U.S. history. Approximately 800,000 federal employees are affected.

These employees are not only missing out on paychecks. Many are still required to work - without pay. And others are feeling immense pressure and stress, as their employment and financial futures are unknown. 

Supreme Court allows ban on transgender troops to go into effect

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court issued stays on two nationwide injunctions involving the Trump administration's ban on military service by transgender people. Previously, federal district courts in California and Washington state had issued the injunctions to put the policy on hold while litigation continued. The Supreme Court's stays on those injunctions means that the administration may now implement the policy while litigants fight over its legality and constitutionality.

The 2017 policy known as the "Mattis policy" excludes transgender people from serving in the military if they are unwilling to serve in their biological sex.

Can federal workers protest the shutdown on their own time?

Yes. That said, there is a possibility you will get push-back from your agency. To be in the best legal position, you should be prepared to show that any protests or other free speech activities took place on your own time.

You may have heard that federal workers have fewer free speech rights than other people. It's true that you do not have an unlimited right to discuss partisan or political topics while on the job. However, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly that Americans don't give up their First Amendment rights simply by becoming public employees, as the ACLU notes in this fact sheet. You have the right to speak out on political issues on your own time.

Is non-selection at work a form of discrimination?

In the ideal workplace, employees would be recognized for their work, achievements, and attitude. These hardworking employees would be selected for special projects, promotions, and raises.

Unfortunately, many workplaces are far from this ideal.

What to know about unemployment insurance during furloughs

Most federal employees know that the partial government shutdown is in full swing and there is no end in sight. For the most part, there is little federal workers can do but wait and see what happens.

Some federal workers in essential roles are still required to work even though they are not receiving paychecks. Others are furloughed, meaning they cannot even volunteer their services but are in a no-pay, no-duty status. Essential workers will almost certainly be paid for their work during the shut-down period. Although retroactive pay requires Congressional approval, it has been granted in the past. It is also possible that furloughed employees will receive back pay and repayment for vacations scheduled during the furlough.

President Trump issues executive order to freeze federal pay

In late August, President Trump announced his plan to freeze the pay of federal civilian employees. Now, in the midst of the partial government shutdown, he has finalized that plan. On Dec. 28, he issued an executive order formalizing the 2019 pay freeze. Federal workers had been slated to receive a nominal 1.9 percent increase in 2019.

"This is just pouring salt into the wound," said the national president of the National Treasury Employees Union. Many federal workers are already missing paychecks and will take an additional economic hit from the pay freeze.

Did the Air Force wrongfully discharge HIV-positive airmen?

Two former airmen who are HIV positive claim that the Air Force discharged them in violation of the law and its own policies. The two men are asymptomatic and had been cleared for duty when they were suddenly barred from deployment and discharged earlier this year. And, they suspect there are many others who may have been affected by violations of the service's policy.

The issue arose in connection with the "Deploy Or Get Out" policy that was issued in February 2018. That policy mandated that all service members who were not "worldwide deployable" for 12 months should be discharged. In July, the policy was updated to reflect that HIV-positive service members would be considered "deployable with limitations," meaning that they could be discharged.

How would your agency fare in a Christmas shutdown?

Will Congress and the President come up with a funding plan that will keep the federal workforce operating through the end of the year? Naturally, it's impossible to say. The deadline is Friday, and President Trump is reportedly digging in to his position that Congress must issue at least $5 billion in funding for his proposed border wall.

Here are the three most likely scenarios for keeping the government running, according to Federal Times:

  • Pass full appropriations for all agencies for FY 2019 (would not solve the border wall question)
  • Issue a continuing resolution for any agencies that currently have no FY 2019 funding (delays the decision until the new Congress)
  • Pass full FY 2019 appropriations for all agencies except the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the border wall. (This could result in a DHS-specific shutdown)

DHS OIG: U.S. Coast Guard Academy retaliated after complaints

In 2016 and 2016, a female faculty member and lieutenant commander at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, filed a complaint about harassment and bullying by supervisors based on her race and gender. The Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General has just released a report finding that the Academy not only failed to respond properly but also retaliated against her.

The OIG found by a preponderance of the evidence that the unnamed lieutenant commander was given a poor annual evaluation "after making discrimination and harassment complaints against her superiors." The lieutenant commander's name, the superiors she complained about, and the people who handled her complaints were all redacted from the report, which was heavily blacked-out overall.

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