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Judge denies 'essential' federal workers' request to be paid during the shutdown

Posted at 1:53 AM, Jan 16, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-16 01:53:07-05

A federal judge on Tuesday denied requests from unions representing air traffic controllers and other employees required to work through the government shutdown that they either be paid or have the option to skip work while missing paychecks.

U.S. District Judge Richard Leon ruled to keep the status quo, saying that an order allowing employees considered essential to skip work would be "chaotic" in a best-case scenario and "catastrophic" at worst.

Lawyers representing the National Air Traffic Controllers Association had sued the Trump administration to get their controllers, thousands of whom continue to work and just missed a paycheck, be paid while working during the shutdown in order for them to remain "laser-focused" on their job guiding more than 40,000 flights through the nation's airspace every day.

Lawyers for the labor unions, including National Treasury Employees Union, argued withholding pay while forcing labor is unconstitutional and violated U.S. labor laws.

Leon said only Congress can appropriate the funds to pay federal workers and would not force the Treasury Department to allocate funds to the furloughed employees.