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Federal employees must repay unemployment payments

The Department of Labor (DOL) last week issued "guidance" to the states regarding federal employees and their eligibility for unemployment insurance payments during the federal government shutdown. In that guidance, the DOL stated that all furloughed federal employees were in "pay status," during the shutdown and therefore "were not 'unemployed' and are thus ineligible for unemployment benefits."

The USA Today new story uses Oregon as an example, noting that more than 700 federal employees in the state had received $390,000 in state unemployment compensation. Under state law, the workers would typically be allowed to keep this back pay as long as they were not working during the period they were receiving the unemployment payments.

The Oregon Employment Department, however, issued a news release indicating the unemployment payments to the federal employees were now "overpayments" and they will have to be repaid, due to the DOL guidance regarding eligibility for unemployment during the shutdown.

As we have noted on prior occasions, because of the unprecedented nature of the most recent shutdown and coming in conjunction with all of the other sequestration and furlough issues, federal employees are well advised to keep meticulous records of any events or incidents involving their working status to counter allegations of misconduct.

Something as simple as printing out and keeping a file, outside of your office, of all emails or other written guidance you receive can help ensure that you have a clear and retrievable record of any instructions you have received.

Because of the unusual nature of the last year, for employees, a carefully maintained, accurate record of what went on could prove invaluable should questions arise at a later date.

Source: USA Today, "Federal workers must pay back jobless benefits," Paul Davidson, October 28, 2013

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