Federal workers affected by government shutdown

Staff Writer
Plaquemine Post South

WASHINGTON - Federal workers still had to report to work for about four hours Tuesday even though the government shut down.

With no late deal averting the midnight Monday shutdown, several federal agencies say employees would be limited to doing work related to the shutdown, including changing voicemail messages, posting an out-of-office message on email, securing work stations and documents and completing time cards.

At the Environmental Protection Agency, for example, employees were told they cannot work on "any projects, tasks, activities or respond to emails."

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development closed its offices at 1:30 p.m. Other agencies, such as the Labor Department, expected most employees to be gone by mid-day.

Once they head home, furloughed employees are under strict orders not to do any work. That means no sneaking glances at Blackberries or smart phones to check emails, no turning on laptop computers, no checking office voicemail, and no use of any other government-issued equipment.

Office managers are encouraging workers to leave government-issued cell phones and computers in a secure place at the office. Those employees who work from home may find it more difficult to break the habit of checking emails or looking at documents.

Employees received an official e-mail on Tuesday explaining whether or not they are essential or slated to be furloughed. The email included appeal rights and a form to use for seeking unemployment insurance. Some workers may be eligible for unemployment depending where they live. Some states require a one-week waiting period before applying, while others allow workers to apply right away.

Federal workers would not see their pay affected right away. If a shutdown continues, all employees can expect to be paid on schedule on Oct. 15, 2013 for hours worked from Sept. 22 through Sept. 30.