It’s Illegal for Furloughed Federal Employees to Check Work Email during the Shutdown

Sunday, October 06, 2013

When is checking your work email a crime? When the employer is the federal government, and Washington has to shut down.


Most of the federal workforce found itself staying home this week after congressional gridlock left agencies with no funding to operate.


In preparation for the shutdown, the Office of Personnel Management instructed (pdf) informed employees that they cannot check their email accounts remotely. Some offices went so far as to require staff to turn in their government-issued smartphones.


If workers do access their inboxes, they will be in violation of a 19th century law, the Antideficiency Act, adopted during the Chester Arthur administration that carries a penalty of fines or even imprisonment.


The no-email prohibition also applies to managers, prohibiting them from even using their agency email systems to alert workers that the shutdown has ended and to report back to the office.


Federal bosses will have to use phone calls, television, radio or social media to inform rank-and-file that their furlough is over.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Federal Workers Who Check Their E-Mail During a Shutdown Will Be Breaking the Law (by Brian Fung, Washington Post)

Federal Workers: Hand over BlackBerry during Shutdown (by Jennifer Liberto, CNN Money)

Guidance for Shutdown Furloughs (Office of Personnel Management) (pdf)


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