During a Shutdown, Can You Keep Your Government Issued Device?

Dec 20, 2018


The Office of Management and Budget released guidance last year allowing agencies to set their own guidance for mobile devices so long as they don’t rely on the phones to call employees back to work. Different agencies have different policies on phone use during a shutdown/furlough. For example, some agencies require employees to turn in their government issued device until they return to work, and some allow employees to take the device with them.

Here’s what some agencies require, or allow, of employees:

Agriculture Department—guidance updated December 2017

Employees aren’t required to turn in their government issued device, however, employees are prohibited from using their government-issued devices “for communication during a shutdown for official business other than for the purposes of shutdown or as required by the secretary.”

Commerce Department—guidance updated in 2015

Employees can hang onto their devices through a shutdown. The list of excepted IT requirements and contracts specifically lists “mobile devices (iPhones, iPads)” and “desktops/laptops” as immune.

Homeland Security Department—guidance updated March 2018

Employees can hang onto their devices but only use them to check the status of the shutdown. The contingency plan explicitly states any other use could be prohibited by law.

“During a hiatus, non-exempt personnel may continue to retain and monitor their DHS issued electronic devices for status updates and emergency notifications from their supervisors or other management officials; however, employees are prohibited from using this equipment for any other purposes (e.g. employees may only use their DHS electronic devices for one-way communication to monitor the status of the furlough, which is strictly an option…Failure to follow this policy may result in a violation of law, specifically the ADA, which has a criminal component and may result in severe penalties.”

Exempt employees can continue to use their government-issued devices to do their jobs.

Housing and Urban Development Department—guidance updated January 2018

This agency prohibits the use of government-issued devices in no certain terms.

“When in a furlough status, you are prohibited from using HUD provided devices (such as laptops, iPads, cell phones) during a furlough,” the guidance says.

Employees also cannot connect to HUD’s remote apps such as agency email or HUDmobile.

Interior Department—guidance updated December 2017

Their guidance leaves it up to each component leader to decide whether to collect government issued devices or not.

“Some may choose, for example, to include in orderly shutdown activities a requirement that furloughed employees turn in their Blackberries until they return to the office; others may determine that circumstances warrant a different approach,” the guidance states.

The guidance also warns managers that employees need not rely on personal devices to access work email to find out whether the shutdown is over.

State Department—guidance updated March 2018

Employees can hang onto their devices during a shutdown but must turn them off. Excepted personnel working through a shutdown should not be in communication with non-excepted employees on furlough.

Message us & find out if you qualify today!

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Recent Articles

6 Key Reasons Why Your Disability Retirement Application Was Denied

Have you recently applied for Federal Disability Retirement, only to receive a denial? The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is denying more initial applications than ever. However, it's important to understand that a denial does not mean the end of the road for...

Federal Employee Resources

Our ever growing library of federal employee resources give you the knowledge you need to make smart choices about your future.


Frequently Asked Questions

Get the answers you need on-demand, from a team of federal employee benefits professionals.

View FAQ

Federal Benefit Webinars

Twice per month we host webinars to help federal employees better understand their benefits and answer their questions LIVE.

See Webinar Schedule

Benefit Guides

From guides to detailed charts, these educational resources will help clarify confusing federal employee benefits topics.

See our resources