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Federal employees who worked during furlough can join multi-million dollar lawsuit

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(WHNT) – Anyone deemed one of the “essential employees” who worked through the government shut down in 2013 may get another pay day.

A small group of federal employees filed a lawsuit against the government for the time they went without pay.  Now all “essential” federal employees can join the multi-million dollar lawsuit.

The lawsuit claims the federal government violated the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act by delaying pay, effectively making employees work for less than the minimum wage, according to the suit. The plaintiffs are asking for one week’s compensation plus double overtime – about $290 per employee.

Christopher Pape specializes in employment law. He says this case is unique in that the court doesn’t have much precedent.

“Some of the issues presented in this case are issues of first impression, which are new for the court,” said Pape. “They`ve never had to decide those, which is part of what makes this case interesting. ”

Pape says the plaintiff’s case pulls at the heartstrings.

“The thought that ‘we missed our payment, we missed our bills, it put our families in hardships last year and we want to be compensated for what we are owed’. It’s a strong argument, it’s a powerful argument,” said Pape.

Regardless, Pape says just because the government may have failed to get the case dismissed,  it stands a chance to defeat the lawsuit.

The collective action suit allows federal employees who worked during the furlough to “opt in” to the lawsuit. That would make it possible for them to be reimbursed if the plaintiff’s succeed.

“Essential” federal employees should receive a letter in the mail with detailed instructions on how to opt in closer to the beginning of the year.