Federal workers will still have to report to work for about four hours Tuesday even if the government shuts down.
Absent a last-minute deal in Congress averting the midnight Monday shutdown, several federal agencies say employees would be limited to doing work related to the shutdown, including changing voicemail messages, posting an out-of-office message on email, securing work stations and documents and completing time cards.
At the Environmental Protection Agency, for example, employees were told they could not work on "any projects, tasks, activities or respond to emails."
The Department of Housing and Urban Development said it would close its offices at 1:30 p.m. Other agencies, such as the Labor Department, expect most employees to be gone by midday, but haven't set a specific time.
Once they head home, furloughed employees are under strict orders not to do any work. That means no sneaking glances at Blackberries or smart phones to check emails, no turning on laptop computers, no checking office voicemail, and no use of any other government-issued equipment.
Office managers are encouraging workers to leave government-issued cellphones and computers in a secure place at the office. Those employees who work from home may find it more difficult to break the habit of checking emails or looking at documents.
Employees will receive an official email on Tuesday explaining whether they are essential or slated to be furloughed. The email will include appeal rights and a form to use for seeking unemployment insurance.
Some workers may be eligible for unemployment, depending on where they live. Some states require a one-week waiting period before applying, while others allow workers to apply right away.
Federal workers would not see their pay affected right away. If a shutdown continues, all employees can expect to be paid on schedule on Oct. 15 for hours worked from Sept. 22 through Sept. 30.
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