How Does the 2019 Government Shutdown Affect Human Resources?
How Does the 2019 Government Shutdown Affect Human Resources?

How Does the 2019 Government Shutdown Affect Human Resources?

The consequences of the government shutdown are widespread. From furloughed federal employees, delayed tax returns and long lines at TSA checkpoints, few Americans can escape its impact.

Unfortunately, as an HR leader, you won’t get by unscathed. It’s not just “business as usual” for most organizations because the shutdown affects the work done on a day-to-day basis. Let’s review some of the biggest ways the government shutdown is affecting HR departments.

E-Verify is Down

The system used to confirm an employee’s eligibility status to work in the U.S. is inaccessible. Overseen by the Department of Homeland Security, E-Verify takes the information found on an employee’s I-9 form and electronically compares it to records from the Social Security Administration and DHS to determine if someone is legally allowed to work.

Anticipating that E-Verify’s unavailability would have a significant bearing on employer operations, temporary policies are in effect for the duration of the shutdown. Those policies include:

  • Employers must still comply with all Form I-9 requirements, including completing the form no later than the third business day after an employee starts work. However, you won’t be able to create a case for each new hire until the system is up and running again. Employees should be able to begin or continue work during the shutdown.

  • Employees who need to resolve Tentative Non-Confirmations (TNCs) will be extended, and the duration that E-Verify is down won’t count against their resolution time limit. TNCs are issued when information entered into E-Verify doesn’t match the records from the SSA or data at DHS.

  • Employers can NOT take adverse action against an employee because his or her E-Verify case is in an interim status.

  • Telephone and email support are unavailable.

  • myE-verify accounts are inaccessible.

If the lack of authenticated eligibility gives you pause, perhaps it’s worth peace of mind to work with a private company who handles background checks. But before you commit to using one, ask if their results will integrate with your HCM system for easy record keeping.

Reduced Capabilities of EEOC

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has limited services available— only activities involving the safety of human life or the protection of property will continue. The EEOC, which enforces federal laws that prohibit job discrimination, had its more than 2,000 employees reduced to 103, some of whom are working on a part-time basis. Other items to take note of during the shutdown:

  • No new charges will be accepted unless you’re nearing the statue of limitations. Charges must be filed within 300 days of the incident unless you live in a state without a fair employment practice agency (Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina). In these states, you only have 180 days to file a charge. Time limits will NOT be extended due to the shutdown.

  • If you’re within 30 days of your time expiring, to file a charge you’ll have to download the EEOC pre-charge inquiry form and mail it in once completed.

  • If you have questions about pending or closed charges, you’ll have to wait until the shutdown is over to receive information.

  • Mediations are canceled.

  • No investigations will be conducted.

  • Outreach and educational events canceled.

  • No Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests will be processed.

  • Neither the help hotline or email support is available.

Additional Items to Keep in Mind

Some businesses may be more affected than others by the government shutdown, and conversely those HR departments may find themselves in uncharted territory. If possible, seek guidance from industry peers and associations who might have insight into how to navigate the shutdown successfully. Also, take into consideration:

  • The U.S. Small Business Administration, who typically handles around 200 loans for working capital and 120 loans for commercial properties per day, is closed. This may impact your business directly or one of your independent contractors.

  • The Department of Labor employees are furloughed, mostly from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Employment and Training Administration departments.

  • If you have an open item with the IRS, resolution may be delayed. The practitioner priority lines remain unstaffed and there’s no one to review requests for refunds or waivers.

  • The Treasury Department will distribute Social Security funds.

  • Go ahead and file your ACA compliance reports as scheduled to avoid any fines by the IRS. Issues may arise if the shutdown continues for an extended period of time because the support staff for the ACA Information Returns (AIR – the electronic filing method used to prove ACA compliance) process isn’t working. To prevent any uncertainty in the future, consider using an automated ACA compliance system. It can help ensure your forms get generated correctly and comply with the latest standards, even if there’s no one on the government’s side to confirm.

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