We borrowed the title of this post from the classic film National Lampoon’s Vacation, paraphrasing Marty the Moose. Much like the Griswolds, vacationers expecting to see the Lincoln Memorial or the pandas at the National Zoo will be disappointed to find that the parks have been closed as part of the government shutdown.
Employers may not be so disappointed to find that the EEOC has been shut down as well, or mostly shut down. The Huffington Post reports that of the 2,167 employees of the EEOC only 107 or 5% will continue working through the furlough.
The EEOC has issued its contingency plan for the government shut down. In short, the EEOC will make sure that charges are docketed to insure that deadlines for filing charges do not pass simply because of the shutdown. Specifically, during the shut down the EEOC will not:
- Investigate any charges
- Respond to questions from the public
- Will not continue to litigate if relevant courts grant requests for stays
- Have hearings
- Have any educational panels
- Respond to FOIA requests
Employers who are involved in litigation with the EEOC should expect that there will be formal requests for stays of the litigation. Employers whose cases may be impacted by a delay, i.e., an anticipated loss of a witness should take steps to preserve testimony and evidence that may be impacted by a delay. In addition, to the extent that employers are intending to rely on information in the EEOC’s files in litigation, employers may wish to seek extensions of discovery to allow for the processing of FOIA requests.
It is hard to tell at this point how long the shut down will last and what backlog that will create, but employers with pending charges will likely be dealing with charges much longer than usual. If you have position statements or responses due, we do not recommend simply ignoring deadlines but rather, should go on record that no response will be filed during the shutdown.