DC Judge Tells Furloughed Workers They Must Stay On The Job

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An assortment of federal workers' unions are suing the government, many saying their employees are being forced to work without pay.

The Department of Labor on Thursday denied a request from Washington's mayor to make more federal employees who are working without pay eligible to collect unemployment benefits, Mayor Muriel Bowser said Thursday.

In a hearing Tuesday, District Judge Richard J. Leon refused to grant temporary restraining orders requested the National Treasury Employees Union, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, and a group of individual federal employees.

The lawsuits challenged the shutdown, which has become the longest in US history, at 25 days so far, thanks to President Donald Trump's refusal to sign any funding bill that doesn't include $5.7 billion for his proposed border wall. In a typical week, fewer than a thousand former federal workers apply for unemployment. He said that the judiciary should not wade into what he called a political "squabble", according to NBC's Charlie Gile.

"The judiciary is not another source of leverage", Leon said.

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The National Air Traffic Controllers Association argued the shutdown violated the Fifth Amendment, and funds have been deprived from air traffic controllers without due process. He reportedly said it would be "profoundly irresponsible" to issue an order that would keep thousands of workers off the job.

The U.S. Labor Department on Thursday reported that the number of furloughed federal employees seeking unemployment benefits has jumped, from fewer than a thousand per week before the shutdown to more than 10,000 during the week that ended January 5.

Leon also dismissed a request that'd allow federal employees to stay home rather than labor away uncompensated. The union represents 150,000 people working at almost three dozen agencies.

"The federal government reimburses the employment department dollar for dollar for all of the benefits we pay federal workers", Gerstenfeld said. The union represents about 70,000 IRS workers, most of whom have been furloughed since nine of the federal government's 15 departments closed December 22. She tells All Things Considered that it took four years to win a lawsuit she filed on behalf of federal workers during the 2013 shutdown.

Federal statute requires agencies to take reduction-in-force (RiF) action against employees who have been furloughed for 30 days or more, but that only applies in administrative furloughs, "a planned event by an agency which is created to absorb reductions necessitated by downsizing, reduced funding, lack of work, or any budget situation other than a lapse in appropriations".

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