This week, the federal government teeters on the edge of shutdown, due the Congresses’ inability to complete a continuing resolution to fund the government. Federal employees yet again face the loss of income, in addition to disruptive nature of having to stop doing their jobs for an indefinite period. One additional employee right affected with this government shutdown is the right to speak about the shutdown.
Government workers at some agencies have been ordered not to speak with the media regarding this shutdown. In one case, a federal employee who had spoken with the Washington Post, contacted the reporter and asked to have his comments withdrawn, after receiving “guidance” that apparently instructed them not to speak with the press.
Agencies have directed employees to refer all questions to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), to ensure “consistent information.” According to the Post, OMB was not commenting on the “no comment” policy.
Federal employees have been under near constant criticism, frequently it seems, merely for existing, and this year they have been subjected to unpaid furloughs resulting from the sequester, another piece of failed budgetary policy that most directly impacts individual federal workers.
If the government does shut down, federal workers could face adverse job actions or other disciplinary proceedings should they make statements that violate a no comment order. As one media spokesperson noted it seems “Kafkaesque” as he could not comment on a question posed by the reporter.
One can understand why federal employees may be growing increasingly disillusioned and demoralized, as they are subjected to arbitrary loss of income and unreasonable orders. For a worker who could lose days or weeks of pay, it is difficult to imagine what legitimate agency purpose is served by their being prevented from discussing this hardship.
Source: Washington Post, “No comment: Federal workers afraid to speak about shutdown,” Emily Wax-Thibodeaux, September 27, 2013