I work for a contractor to the federal government in West Virginia. During a government shutdown, my company is making us use eight hours of vacation, per day, which is legal in the state of WV. However, my company is also telling us that we need to check our government email during the shutdown, for any updates they may send and go into the HR system to input the eight hours of vacation, on a daily basis. When I inquired about what charge code we should bill for that work, I was told that, since this would amount to less than 15 minutes per day, that it is not billable. I am an exempt employee, but I am basically treated as hourly, as my hours worked and vacation must add up to the pay period minimum.

1) We are not supposed to do work of any kind, during a shutdown. Wouldn't checking government email and filling out a time card on a daily basis violate this?

2) We bill in half hour increments. Would checking email and doing time card activity be 0.5 hours of work, leaving a total of 7.5 hours VAC and 0.5 hours of work, per day? I know that this isn't a huge amount of time, but the principle of making us burn vacation while working for free seems to be wrong.

I have checked with both the West Virginia Division of Labor, who told me that I needed to address this with the US Department of Labor, and the US Department of Labor, who told me that I need to address this with the West Virginia Division of Labor.

I was trying to get my question answered without getting an attorney involved, or at least an answer as to whether talking to an attorney may be worthwhile, but have had no luck, so far.


  • 1
    Do you have to go in to check your email, or can you do it from home?
    – cpast
    Jan 20, 2018 at 1:14

1 Answer 1


Checking email, even if it's an email system provided by the employer, for updates on your work situation is not working time.

You aren't being asked to communicate actively with customers or clients, or to complete any activity that has benefit to the employer. Your checking and your time-filling are both for the purpose of ensuring you know what is happening and can get paid.

You can stop checking your email, and then miss the notification that you are resuming work, and be disciplined for not keeping yourself aware, or you can stay informed and be happy that you receive daily updates on something as important as whether you need to come to work.

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