“Gone Fishing, Not Sure When We’ll Be Back” – The Federal Government

It may be days or weeks before we figure out all of the implications of the federal government shutdown. Remember, it took us some time to realize that air traffic control would be impacted the last time the federal government was on a break.

This time around, I was speaking at an EPL seminar starting on October 1st and the keynote speaker was to have been a Commissioner from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Note the emphasis on “was.” Due to the government shutdown, this individual was no-show because the EEOC staff is unable to participate in any outreach programs regardless of the sponsoring organization during the government shut down.

EEOC Shutdown

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is currently closed because of the government shut-down. While the government is closed, a limited number of EEOC services are available.

Time is of the Essence — When it Comes to Filing EEOC Charges

The impact of the shut-down will be different department by department, and the EEOC’s website informs individuals that if they are trying to file a charge of discrimination against a private employer or a state or local government employer, there are specific time limits.  (Usually charges have to be filed within 300 days of the incident).  These time limits may not be extended because of the shut-down.

three-part series on the effectsof the government shutdown

The Government Shutdown

Therefore, individuals within 30 days of seeing their period to file charges expire (and those unsure when the relevant period expires) are advised not to wait until the EEOC reopens to begin the process.

There’s an App for That

The EEOC directs filers to its online assessment system to start the ball rolling. There, individuals are asked a series of questions to determine whether their complaint is covered by the laws enforced by the EEOC. If covered, individuals can complete an intake questionnaire and mail or fax it in.

Pending, Pending

For those with questions about the status of a pending charge, the advice is to please call back when the government reopens.

We May Remain Silent, But You May have the Right to Sue

The EEOC further advises those who have already filed a complaint and have previously gone through the assessment process and have received a “notice of your right to sue” that the time limits for filing their cases in court are not suspended. If they do not file suit within the relevant time period, they will lose the right to do so.

What’s That You Say? Hearings Postponed?

Litigation is suspended unless an emergency exists (such as if a continuance has not been granted by the court).

Mediations are cancelled until further notice, for both private-sector cases and Federal-sector mediations.

For those involved in any hearing or proceeding before an Administrative Judge (AJ), these will be postponed until further notice. Meanwhile, deadlines for discovery or submitting motions are also suspended (whew!) during the government shutdown; the general rule will be that applicable deadlines will be extended by the number of days the government is shut down.

EEOC Contingency Plans

The EEOC will:

  • File new charges and Federal-sector appeals where necessary to preserve the rights of aggrieved individuals under the federal employment discrimination statutes
  • Continue to litigate lawsuits where a continuance has not been granted (as mentioned above)
  • Examine new charges to determine whether prompt judicial action is necessary to protect life or property and, if appropriate, file such action to obtain preliminary relief; maintain the integrity and viability of EEOC’s information systems
  • Perform necessary administrative support to carry out those excepted functions.


-Of course, this assumes that you or someone near and dear to you can access a computer and a printer; and a thought is that it would probably be best not to use one’s employer’s system to do so.

-Noting that while the EEOC will accept charges (mailed and faxed in) that must be filed in order to preserve the rights of claimants during shutdown, these charges will not be investigated.

About Ann Longmore

Ann is Executive Vice President of Willis' Executive Risks practice. Based in New York, she has been with the compa…
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