Air traffic controllers add to pile of shutdown lawsuits

Air traffic controllers Friday joined the ranks of federal employees suing over the partial government shutdown, after workers keeping vigil over their bank accounts didn’t receive a cent on payday.

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association, a labor union, says missed paychecks will devastate plaintiffs in the suit, including a single mother who cares for ailing relatives and fears she cannot afford to travel to a funeral for her grandmother, who died Tuesday.

Another controller has a child with special medical needs and is worried about being evicted from his home, while a third is unsure if he’ll be able to cover the costs of his wife’s upcoming surgery.

The “unlawful failure to pay plaintiffs and those similarly situated has and continues to have a devastating effect on those devoted federal employees’ lives,” states the lawsuit, filed in federal court in D.C.

The union says despite the shutdown, air-traffic controllers deemed essential have continued to direct planes on the ground and in the air. They’re also directing takeoff and landing instructions to pilots and sending out weather and emergency alerts.

The controllers “are responsible for ensuring the safe routing of tens of thousands of flights, often working lengthy, grueling overtime shifts to do so,” the complaint says.

The lawsuit, which names President Trump, the chief of the Federal Aviation Administration and other administration officials, says failure to pay controllers as scheduled or compensate them for overtime is unconstitutional because it deprives them of lawful property — namely, work they’ve already performed.

It is seeking their employees’ pay and damages equal to minimum wage for hours worked and full value of any overtime they’re performed amid the shutdown.

The complaint adds to a growing court docket related to the shutdown, which entered its 21st day Friday and centers on Mr. Trump’s demand for border wall funding.

The first pay cycle of the shutdown ended last weekend, meaning paychecks that should have gone out Friday were frozen.

The largest federal employee union, the American Federation of Government Employees, is seeking recompense for up to 420,000 essential employees who are working without compensation.

D.C. lawyer Heidi Burakiewicz is using the same arguments she used after the 2013 shutdown, when she secured full pay and extra damages for 25,000 essential employees. Those damages are still being processed, however.

The National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) also has sued over the current shutdown.

Lawyers for employees at the Transportation, Agriculture and Justice departments filed an amended complaint in another suit Friday that provides names and addresses for four plaintiffs, after a judge said they couldn’t remain anonymous.

The employees say they shouldn’t face punishment for refusing to work without pay and should be allowed to seek paying side gigs during the shutdown.

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