Time for a new name for ‘essential’ workers?

The semantics of the possible government shutdown are getting complicated.

The old terms used to distinguish which employees would still come to work if the government runs out of funding — “essential” workers work, “non-essential” ones don’t — is apparently being phased out in favor of less judgmental terms.

As our colleague Eric Yoder notes, the preferred nomenclature is “excepted” and “non-excepted.” Those more neutral terms comes from official Office of Management and Budget Policy. Seems feds found it a slap in the face to be labeled non-essential. Don’t we all feel essential?

But being nicer comes with some confusion. “Excepted” employees work through a shutdown (since they are excepted from furloughs); “non-excepteds” stay home. But “excepted” sounds a lot like “accepted” and telling workers they’re not accepted feels a bit insulting, too.

Anyway, it would appear there’s an opening for a new term, should someone like to coin one. It will probably come in handy.

 

Emily Heil is the co-author of the Reliable Source and previously helped pen the In the Loop column with Al Kamen.

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Al Kamen · September 27, 2013