Hundreds of thousands of federal employees were sent home because of the budget battle, but Social Security employee Dave Brewer had to cancel his vacation, miss his uncle's funeral and report to work.
Brewer was among those federal workers deemed too vital to be on furlough. They were told to return from vacations and even maternity leaves until the impasse is resolved. They don't even know when they might be paid.
Canceling vacations and other scheduled leaves left many employees bitter. About 200 workers protested the shutdown policies Thursday at a lunchtime rally outside the Richard Bolling Federal Building.
Social Security worker Jane Stiles said she was supposed to be on maternity leave with her 7-week-old baby until January. But on Monday, after returning home from seeing her doctor, she found a message on her answering machine telling her to be back at work in one hour.
"I was shocked," Stiles said. "They said I had to come in or not get paid."
Mary Ann Maloney, a spokeswoman for the Office of Personnel Management in Washington, said she did not know how many workers were affected nationwide.