Air traffic controllers sue over shutdown

By Geoff West   
Published
Air traffic controllers work at the Washington Air Route Traffic Control Center in Leesburg, Va. The Washington ARTCC is operated by the Federal Aviation Administration, which pays air traffic controllers. The FAA's funding lapsed when the shutdown began at midnight on Dec. 22. On Friday, the controllers were not paid. (Faa.gov)

WASHINGTON — The air traffic controllers union on Friday filed a lawsuit against the federal government for being forced to work without pay.

The lawsuit filed in federal district court alleges the government has violated the Fair Labor Standards Act for failing to pay at least minimum wage to air traffic controllers and other members of the NATCA furloughed by the shutdown.

The NATCA, which filed the lawsuit, also alleges the government is in violation of the Fifth Amendment because it “unlawfully deprived NATCA members of their earned wages without due process,” according to a NATCA press release.

Air traffic controllers are paid through the Federal Aviation Administration, whose funding lapsed in December. Friday was the first day of the shutdown that its members failed to receive a paycheck.

“The air traffic controllers, traffic management coordinators, and other excepted aviation safety professionals that NATCA represents remain on the job, dedicated to the safety of every flight, but they don’t know when they will receive their next paycheck,” according to the press release. “If not for the shutdown, NATCA members would have begun to receive direct deposit of their pay into their accounts as of this morning.”

The lawsuit is only the latest filed by a federal workers union on behalf of its members.

On Wednesday, the National Treasury Employees Union, which represents workers at 33 federal agencies including the IRS, filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration on behalf of its 150,000 members. The plaintiffs include two Customs and Border Protection officers.

That suit followed a similar one filed by the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents correctional officers and ICE agents, on New Year’s Eve.

All of the affected federal workers are expected to receive their deferred pay at an undetermined time after the shutdown ends.

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