By: Erin Dougherty Foley

In case you haven’t heard, as of October 1, many federal agencies and programs will be forced to close, or partially close, barring some type of Congressional agreement on the federal budget. This would be the first such shutdown in 17 years.  And all of this excitement could happen tonight, at midnight.

So which agencies and services are impacted?  Well, let’s begin with the three categories of programs which are not impacted: 1) Social Security, Medicare and other “entitlement” programs (because they do not require annual appropriations); 2) those agencies and programs that are “necessary to protect life or property” (i.e., police, military, intelligence agencies and foreign embassies); and 3) other federal programs that have sources of money that will allow for their continued operations (i.e., federal courts, which collect fees and fines, etc.). 

Other agencies – such as the ones that we here at Seyfarth Shaw engage on a daily basis – will be subject to shutdown procedures or various contingency plans. While we can’t list all of them here, we thought it a good idea to highlight a couple of the bigger players. 

As noted above, the federal courts will remain open for at least the initial period. Several federal courts have notified the public that they will maintain business as usual for approximately 10 days. [For example, here and here ]. All litigation, proceedings and deadlines will remain in effect during this period, unless and until otherwise notified (on-line filing of court documents will not be interrupted). The Federal Judiciary will review the situation on or before October 15 and provide further guidance.  

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has advised that, in the event of a shutdown, “only activities involving the safety of human life or the protection of property will continue.” Charges will continue to be accepted (to preserve the rights of employees), but they will not be investigated. Any EEOC mediations or federal sector hearings will not be conducted; and no FOIA requests will be processed. The EEOC will only be retaining a limited number of employees to perform “shutdown” operations and other functions deemed “critical” or “emergency” exceptions. Remaining employees will be furloughed. To review the EEOC’s contingency plan, click here

Similarly, the Department of Labor will maintain only a “minimal level of activities sufficient to support” those services that the Solicitor of Labor has determined to be critical or necessary.  The DOL’s staffing of the various agencies under its control will drop from over 16,000 employees to just under 3,000. To review the DOL’s contingency plan, click here

We’re continuing to monitor what’s happening in Washington and will provide more updates as they become available. If you have questions or need more information about how the government shutdown could impact you or your business, please contact your Seyfarth attorney.