During the recent government shutdown, many civilian federal workers have had to face the indignity of being deemed “unessential” workers.

This troubling situation was further complicated when some civilian staff were told to return to work-  while other workers, who perform identical tasks, were told to remain home on unpaid leave.

Military staff have been permitted to work due to the Pay Our Military Act, a law which was passed on 30 September 2013. The act enables military, and some Department of Defense (DoD) civilians, to work during the government shutdown due to specially appropriated funding.

Although the law was intended to provide funds for all defense workers-military and civilians, it has been inconsistently interpreted.

A recent article, written by Kristina Wong, in the Washington Times, stated that ‘their interpretation allows funding for press office personnel who support “internal” communications within the Defense Department but not those who support “external” communications with reporters or the general public.’

DoD workers, both civilian and contractors, are experiencing frustration and confusion as they see some workers allowed to return to work, while they remain unable to do so.

Some government contractors have been allowed to continue working, but only if they were still covered by FY13 contracts and funds. Additionally, they would only be able to remain working in offices which had military personnel as the government oversight.

The government shutdown has caused immense hardship on the DoD workforce as a whole. Although civilians workers have been told that they will eventually be paid for the time they have been forced to remain home from their jobs, there has still been serious damage to morale and financial hardship in the interim.

The workforce group hardest hit in this situation are the government contractors who are unable to continue working, and will not be paid for hours lost during the government shutdown.

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Diana M. Rodriguez is a native Washingtonian who works as a professional freelance writer, commentator, and blogger; as well as a public affairs, website content and social media manager for the Department of Defense.