Shutdown: Which Federal Workers Are 'Essential'?

Thursday, April 07, 2011

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden meet with Office of Management and Budget Director Jack Lew and Rob Nabors, Director of Legislative Affairs, in the Oval Office, April 5, 2011 (Office White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Friday's potential government shutdown directly affects “non-essential" employees, putting them at risk of taking a furlough. However it's not only this class of employees that will feel the effects of shutdown. There are serious economic ripple effects and, more simply, it costs money to shutdown the government.

Janice Lachance, CEO of the Special Libraries Association helps explain the process of how a shutdown works for the employees. She was previously was the director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management where she learned a thing or two about who the federal government thinks is essential to its daily operation. "Unfortunately, it's a lot of work for a lot of people," says Lachance. Is it worth all the work just to furlough employees?


Janice Lachance

Produced by:

Hsi-Chang Lin

Comments [6]

Courtney from Florida

I am considered an "essential" federal employee. I am expected to come to work every day of this government "shutdown" with the hopes of being paid by the end of the month. "Non-essential" federal employees are forced to go home and will be paid upon the re-opening of the government. My leave has been cancelled, along with every other "essential" employees earned leave. We will not be given that leave back or compensated for that lost time. How can some federal employees get paid for NOT working during this shut down while others work for pay later? It just isn't right.

Oct. 05 2013 03:28 PM

The potential for a government shutdown is the result of our polarized government which is the result not of a polarized electorate but rather of gerrymandering. If we redraw the voter districts in a more random fashion our elected officials would bre far more conciliatory.

Apr. 07 2011 09:33 AM
Cori (Veteran) from Colorado

What about ESSENTIAL military that STILL won't get paid? Quite the slap in the face to those Americans being SHOT at in Afghanistan or the one's stationed outside of Japan lending aid where RADIATION is leaking, and sailors are already drinking water with Iodine and having the ships washed down for radiation? Will they get thank-you tips from Japan?

Apr. 07 2011 09:26 AM
Rich from MA

I am a VHA employee, and considered essential. I will gladly come to work during any “shutdown” because, paid or not, I will not abandon my brother or sister veterans. I vividly remember the last “shutdown”. What sticks in my mind is all the aggravation produced by sending people home, and paying them for being home. Of course, I would not want the employees that were sent home because of political gridlock have their pay docked, but all those who worked did not receive any benefit. I hear the gripes about those times every time shutdown talks begin again. Way to promote workplace harmony Mr. & Mrs. Political Leader!

Apr. 07 2011 07:55 AM
Arthur C Adams from Laurel, Maryland

Your discussion of whether or not a job is "essential" sparked memories of my days as a Federal employee.

The term essential is a bit misleading, as it implies workers who aren't essential aren't really needed. That's not the case. When the Federal government says "essential", it means needed every day, without fail.

At my current job, I'm going to be on vacation next week. Obviously, my work won't get done, but my company won't fall apart without me. I'll just catch up when I get back. By Federal standards, I'm not "essential".

However, a month ago, we had a major deadline looming. I probably would not have been allowed to take vacation, or I would have had to train someone to do my work while I was away. Then, I was "essential."

Apr. 07 2011 06:28 AM
colleen pearce from Harvard, MA

To get past this stalemate, how about simply taking a cut evenly, on every program across the board, including the military. This way they could quite squabbling over partisan spending programs and start working on that next week.

I say this as a compromise, as my fervent hope is that we fund education, PBS, Planned Parenthood and safeguard our environment. I too, could step into the blame game, but where does that get us in the end?

Apr. 07 2011 06:19 AM

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