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Wayne County, MI



Branch 2184

Contract Corner  Questions and Answers

These questions and answers were developed by Joe Golonka and various

union officers in Branch 2184 to help alleviate some of the stress and

confusion caused by: misconceptions, myths (passed on through the

years) and outright being lied to.  These have been placed in our branch

newsletter “Speaks” for more than a decade.



[ Open All | Close All ]        Click on a Question to reveal the Answer

Q1: How is the amount of annual leave that letter carriers earn determined, and how much annual leave can a career Letter Carrier carry over into the next leave year?

     Fulltime career letter carriers receive annual leave based on their years of creditable service, per the provisions of the Employee and Labor Relations Manual (ELM) section 512.311. There are three categories of annual leave earnings. Additionally, in accordance with the section 512.231 of the ELM, active military service is also counted when computing the years of service that determine the annual leave category. In accordance with section 512.312 of theELM, letter carriers with less than 3 years of creditable service receive 4 hours of annual leave for each full biweekly pay period, which equates to 104 hours or 13 days during a 26-pay period leave year. Letter carriers with more than 3 years of creditable service but less than 15 years receive 6 hours of annual leave for each full biweekly pay period plus 4 additional hours in the last full pay period in the calendar year for a total of 160 hours or 20 days per 26-pay period leave year. Letter carriers with 15 years or more or creditable service received 8 hours of annual leave for each full biweekly pay period for a total of 208 hours or 26 days per 26-pay period leave year. The maximum number of annual leave that can be carried over by USPS Bargaining Unit employees, including letter carriers is 55 days or 440 hours per the ELM section 512.321.a. Leave in excess of 440 hours at the end of a leave year is forfeited. However, Article 10, section 3.B of our Collective Bargaining Agreement states that “Care shall be exercised to assure that no employee is required to forfeit any part of such employee’s annual leave. Additionally, Item 4, section 7(a) and Item 12, section 2(a) of our Branch 2184 Local Memorandum of Understanding both state that “The employer shall not cause any employee to forfeit accumulated annual leave in excess of 55 days. In general, in order to successfully claim that it was USPS management that caused a forfeiture of annual leave, a letter carrier would have to provide proof of repeated attempts to use this leave (PS Forms 3971) that were denied by management.

Q2: I lost my Postal Service Employee Badge and Management told me that I had to pay for a new one. Is that right?

     No, in most instances a letter carrier that loses their USPS employee badge has no obligation to pay for a replacement. The applicable Contractual provisions are found in Article 28, section 3 of the Contract, which states that “an employee shall not be financially liable for any loss or damage to Postal Service property, including vehicles, unless the damage resulted from the willful or deliberate misconduct of the letter carrier.” Thus, unless management can prove that the carrier engaged in willful or deliberate misconduct that directly led to the loss of the badge, they have no standing to charge the carrier for a replacement. Additionally, the provisions of Article 41, section 3.E of the Contract state that “When the Employer requires the use of certain supply items for the proper performance of a carrier’s functions, such items will be supplied by the employer.” Although this provision normally applies to such items as pens and dog spray, employee badges are also required for the proper performance of a letter carrier functions and as such are solely the responsibility of the Postal Service to provide.

Q3: I was off work for several months due to an injury. Did management have to notify me of any assignments that were posted for bid in my station?

     This subject is addressed in both the Collective Bargaining Agreement as well as our Branch 2184 Local Memorandum of Understanding (LMOU). The relevant National Contract language is found in Article 41, section 1.B, which states in part: “When an absent employee has so requested in writing, stating a mailing address, a copy of any notice inviting bids from the craft employees shall be mailed to the employee by the installation head.” This same language also appears in Item #22, section 1(b) of Branch 2184’s Local Memorandum of Understanding. Thus, if you have requested in writing that notices inviting bids are mailed to you and have provided a mailing address, management is required to mail them to you and to do so in a timely manner. Be aware that the impetus for this always begins with the letter carrier, who must be able to prove that he/she requested in writing that notices inviting bids are mailed to them, and has included a mailing address. Management otherwise has no obligation to notify an absent letter carrier of assignment postings. It is strongly recommended that when notifying management in writing that you make a copy for yourself and also provide one to your steward.

Q4: I am a T-6 carrier and I signed the Work Assignment Overtime List. Am I entitled to work overtime on any of the five routes on my T-6 string?

     A Carrier Technician (T-6) carrier that has signed the Work Assignment Overtime Desired List is considered available for overtime on any of the routes on their string. This is applied as follows, per the Joint Contract Administration Manual (JCAM) discussion of Article 8 section 5.G of our Contract: A T-6 that has signed the Work Assignment Overtime list has both the right and the obligation to work any overtime that occurs on any of the five component routes on a regularly scheduled day. When overtime is required on the regularly scheduled day of the route of a carrier that has signed the regular Overtime Desired List and whose T-6 is on the Work Assignment Overtime List, the T-6 is entitled to work the overtime. When overtime is required on the regularly scheduled day of the route of a carrier who is on the Work Assignment List and whose T-6 is also on the Work Assignment List, the regular carrier on the route is entitled to work the overtime. Finally, a reminder that signing the Work Assignment Overtime list does not entitle or require a carrier to perform any work on a nonscheduled day, unless this is a result of a holiday scheduling process which is entirely distinct from Contractual overtime rules. Additionally, there is no requirement for management to provide equitable overtime hours and opportunities among those that have signed the Work Assignment Overtime list.

Q5: How long does management have to provide me with time to meet with my steward after I request union representation?

     This subject has long been an issue of contention and misinformation on the part of management, who frequently attempts to delay and obstruct letter carrier requests for union representation. The Collective Bargaining Agreement, specifically Article 17, section 3, reads in part, that “such requests shall not be unreasonably denied.” Additionally, a Postal Service document that is commonly known as the “Charters Memo” further defined this issue in the following manner: “Reasonable, in our opinion, dictates that in most cases, the grievant and steward should be able to discuss the grievance without delay but 95 percent of the time within two hours of the request. While circumstances will sometimes necessitate a delay of more than two hours, normally the delay should not extend beyond the tour of duty in which the request is made.” What the means is that management should normally comply with a letter carrier’s request to meet with their steward at the time that request is made, and if this meeting is delayed it should be no more than two hours from the time of the request. Additionally, if management fails to immediately provide steward access to a requesting carrier, they should advise both the carrier and the steward as to when this time will be provided. Finally, management is also prohibited from determining in advance how much time is necessary for a letter carrier and steward to meet. If cutting short a meeting between a carrier and their steward, management must also advise both as to when the remaining time necessary will be provided.

Q6: Management told me that I only have 5 minutes after returning from the street to perform required office duties. Is that true?

     NO, that is not in any manner true. There is NO existing Contractual work rule nor any USPS handbook or manual reference whatsoever that mandates any sort of “5-minute” PM office time allowance. Thus, any such claim on the part of management is entirely mythical in nature. In fact, all letter carriers should always be allowed to take all time that is reasonably necessary each day to perform all required PM office duties. This includes but is not limited to obtaining clearance for accountable items, as well as properly endorsing, routing and disposing of any undeliverable mail, and if necessary completing PS form 1571 – Report of Undelivered Mail. See the M -41 Handbook (City Letter Carrier Duties and Responsibilities), Chapter 4 for a detailed discussion of all required PM office duties. Additionally, all Branch 2184 represented letter carriers have 5 minutes of contractually guaranteed wash up time. Specifically, Item #1 of the Branch 2184 Local Memorandum of Understanding (LMOU) provides that “All letter carriers will be granted up to 5 minutes daily for washing up after performing dirty work or incident to personal needs.” Typically this occurs at the end of day following six or seven hours (or more) of work delivering mail. Thus, management’s mythical “5 minutes” of PM office time is actually only enough to cover the contractually negotiated allowance for wash up time – without even considering the required PM office duties that all letter carriers must perform.

Q7: My supervisor said that I was allowed one minute to deliver a parcel. Is that true?

     That is most certainly NOT true. There is no set time allowance for ANY function that a letter carrier performs while delivering mail, including the delivery of parcels. As with all street duties, it takes whatever it takes to provide safe, accurate, efficient, and professional customer service. Thus, the specific amount of time needed to deliver a parcel or to deliver mail to a house or to perform any other delivery function cannot ever be determined or quantified in advance. To reiterate, there is no specific time value assigned to any aspect of letter carrier delivery duties. For example, there is no set pace that a letter carrier is required to walk at and there is no set number of deliveries that must be made within a given timeframe. Instead, a letter carrier is simply required to perform his or her duties efficiently, meaning that he or she should work conscientiously but always with safety and accuracy first and foremost in mind. The time necessary to do this is once again merely whatever it takes, no more and no less. Letter carrier work is certainly demanding and it requires focus and attention, but is otherwise straightforward in nature. Unfortunately, it is Postal Service management that attempts to turn everything into a pathetic and childish game.

Q8: Is a Letter Carrier that is on the Overtime Desired List required to fill out a PS Form 3971 if they don’t want to work overtime?

     No. that is an entirely improper practice and an inappropriate use of a 3971. This Postal Service form is specifically and only used for leave requests and notifications – sick leave, annual leave, or leave without pay (LWOP). It has no valid purpose or function for any other reason. In situations where management has allowed an ODL carrier to decline an overtime assignment, this declined overtime opportunity can be and should be noted and recorded as part of the quarterly overtime tracking requirements for purposes of determining equitability. However, this should not be done through the use of a leave form that has no relevance or applicability to overtime work. Also keep in mind that letter carriers that have signed an Overtime Desired List generally do not have the contractual right to refuse an overtime assignment to begin with. Signing an overtime list brings with it an obligation to work overtime when and where assigned by management. The only exceptions to this requirement are found in Article 8, section 5.E of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, which allows for employees to be excused from overtime work “in exceptional cases based on equity.” Examples include (but are not limited to) birthdays, anniversaries, illness, and deaths. The words “based on equity” mean that the same exemption that is granted to one letter carrier must also be granted to another carrier under same or similar circumstances.

Q9: My supervisor said that the union was “soliciting” grievances and that this was supposedly illegal. Is that true?

     No, what the supervisor said is merely some very wishful thinking on management’s part and it is in fact entirely untrue. The Union (the NALC) has every legal right to encourage its members to protect and enforce their contractual rights by investigating, initiating, and processing grievances. As such, we can and we will do just that. The union alone has the authority to investigate and to determine if a grievance exists. By doing so, we can and will “solicit” ANY grievance or grievances that we deem to be necessary and we will utilize any means that we deem appropriate when doing so. The right of a Union to encourage its members to file grievances when deemed necessary was unequivocally upheld by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in 1970 decision (NLRB v. Lenkurt Electric 438 F. 2d 1102) wherein the NLRB noted that a labor union can even post notices on Union bulletin boards encouraging employees to file grievances when their contractually protected rights have been violated by management. A grievance is broadly defined as a dispute or disagreement pertaining to wages, hours, or conditions of employment. That definition covers a very wide range of work-related matters. Management sometimes makes this phony and frankly paranoid claim because they are unhappy when the NALC and its representatives enforce the provisions of our Labor Contract in a post office station or stations. In doing so, we investigate and process grievances, which costs management time and money and impacts their precious “numbers.” Even more importantly, this typically results in grievance resolutions that require management to stop their violations of the Contract, and in many instances they are also required to make monetary payments to letter carriers whose Contractual rights have been violated. Ironically, Postal management in every USPS Installation already has the ability to make grievances entirely nonexistent to begin with – merely by complying with the terms of the Labor Contract that they signed. Unfortunately, in most instances contract violations committed by management and the resulting grievances are merely a “cost of doing business.” Meanwhile, the NALC will enforce the Contract and we will “solicit” whatever grievances we deem necessary to accomplish this.

Q10: I received a Letter of Indebtedness from the Postal Service that claimed I owed them money. I don’t agree with their claim. What can I do?

     A letter carrier that receives a notice of indebtedness from the USPS (sometimes known as a “letter of demand”) has several options, one or more of which should always be initiated in a timely manner by the recipient of the notice. Article 28, section 4.A of the NALC/USPS Collective Bargaining Agreement allows for a grievance to be initiated in response to any notice of alleged indebtedness. However, this must be done in a timely manner – no later than 14 days after the employee receives this notice. As long as this is done, collection of the debt must be deferred for as long as the grievance continues to advance through the grievance procedure, until the final disposition of the grievance and the exhaustion of all contractual and administrative remedies. Additionally, many USPS claims of indebtedness against employees involve mistakes in which carriers were overpaid through no fault of their own. Section 437 of the Employee and Labor Relations Manual (ELM) gives letter carriers the right to file for waiver of the claim for overpayment. Under this process the carrier files a PS Form 3074 “Request for waiver of Claim for Erroneous Payment of Pay.” The 3074 and accompanying supporting information must then be investigated by the installation head (postmaster or officer-in-charge) of the station where he/she works. The installation head writes a report of the investigation and the entire file is sent to USPS Human Resources and then on to the Eagan (Minnesota) Accounting Service Center, where the claim of indebtedness can be waived if one of the conditions set forth in the ELM 437.6 has been met. Of importance, the two forms of response discussed above are NOT mutually exclusive. Where the claim of alleged indebtedness does involve overpayment, both a timely grievance and a PS 3074 “Waiver of Claim for Erroneous Payment of Pay” should be initiated by the carrier that receives the notice. Additionally, even if the carrier believes the claim is legitimate, no more than 15% of his/her net biweekly pay or 20% of their gross biweekly pay can be deducted each pay period to satisfy a postal debt, unless the employee agrees in writing to a higher amount. Finally, there are some instances where management attempts to charge an employee for alleged loss or damage to mail or alleged loss or damage to USPS property or vehicles. In nearly ALL instances such attempts to charge an employee are contractually unsupported. This was discussed in a previous “Contract Corner” Q and A. If management attempts to charge you financially for any workrelated matter or issue, immediately request to see your steward. Never make any arrangements to pay any money to the Postal Service without first fully investigating and challenging the validity of their claim.

Q11: The VOMA in my office has been delivering mail. Can they do that?

     VOMA (Vehicle Operations Maintenance Assistant) employees that come from the letter carrier craft can deliver mail under some very limited conditions, in accordance with National Level interpretive (Step 4) grievance settlements. Specifically, a VOMA can be utilized to deliver mail only if all of the requirements of Article 8, section 5 of the Contract have been met regarding the assignment of overtime work. Specifically, letter carriers who have signed the regular Overtime Desired List must first be utilized up to 12 hours, as well as carriers who have signed the work assignment Overtime Desired List utilized up to 12 hours on their own assignments - prior to assigning any of this work to a VOMA. Additionally, the VOMA employee cannot be assigned any letter carrier work in lieu of his/her regular VOMA duties. Moreover, VOMA employees are not eligible to sign any Overtime Desired List. Finally, a VOMA who comes from a craft other than the city letter carrier craft cannot deliver mail under any circumstances. Of note, the grievance which resulted in the definitive National Level interpretive decision concerning VOMA and mail delivery issues was initiated in our very own Lincoln Park office during the early 1980s.

Q12: I have a large number of apartments on my route. I was told to leave ads and other unaddressed mailings in the trays beneath the mailboxes. Is this proper?

     No, that is not proper. Letter carrier regulations for security and delivery of the mail are found in the M-41 handbook, sections 112.31 and 321.4. These provide that a carrier must “protect all mail Entrusted to your care” (112.31) and must “place mail well into the receptacle” (321.4). The only exception discussed in the M-41 is a sample that is too large to fit inside the mailbox. Unfortunately, many letter carriers routinely place ads and unaddressed mailings into apartment mailbox trays or leave the ads on top of the boxes. In some instances, letter carriers have even been trained to do this. This practice not only violates the above referenced regulations, but it compromises the only thing that we have to sell, which is customer service. Leaving the area around apartment mailboxes cluttered with ad mailings is hardly the way to promote the image of the USPS. Does placing the ads inside the mailboxes take more time? Sure, it does. So what’s your hurry, anyway? Doing our job right (delivering mail in a safe, sane and professional manner) is far more important than doing it so fast that it compromises customer service.

Q13: Management forced me to work overtime on another route even though I am not on any Overtime Desired List. My supervisor said that she could do this because it was supposedly an “emergency”. They had the same “emergency” the next day. Can they violate the Contract anytime they want just by calling it an emergency?

     No. Merely claiming an alleged emergency situation exists does not make it so. An emergency by definition is both unanticipated and is not expected to occur again in the near future. Management in some of our offices has taken to defining each day as an alleged “emergency” situation, and then they want the Union to look the other way while they violate the Contract at will. However, it just does not work that way. Moreover, most of their so-called “emergencies” arise from their own inability to properly schedule employees and their refusal to hire enough employees to properly staff the Installation. Management’s poor planning and intentional understaffing of the letter carrier complement is not our “emergency”.
    An “emergency” cannot be scheduled in advance. In the situation defined above, you should request to see your Steward so that the Union can investigate the specific facts and circumstances surrounding the assignment of overtime to you on that day or days. More than likely there was no valid “emergency” that warranted management actions which circumvented the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Q14: I signed the regular overtime desired list and wanted switch to the work assignment overtime list, but was told that I could only do this during the sign up period before each quarter. Is that correct?

     Yes, that is correct. During the two weeks prior to each postal quarter, which is the last two weeks of March, June, September, and December, fulltime letter carriers can sign overtime lists or make changes from one list to the other. Changes from one list to the other cannot otherwise be made during the postal quarter under any circumstances, per Article 8, section 5.A. of the NALC/USPS Collective Bargaining Agreement. If a letter carrier wishes to remove their name from the regular or work assignment overtime list during the quarter, he or she may do so at any time. However, they must wait until the next sign up period to re-sign either overtime list.

Q15: I observed a safety hazard in my office and brought it to my supervisor's attention but he did nothing about it. I also filled out a form to report the hazard but management never responded to it. What should I do to get them to respond to the problem?

     Management's conduct in this matter violated the National Agreement (Article 14) as well the Branch 2184 Local Memorandum of Understanding, and their lack of response also violated several USPS rules and regulations. The Contract provides four avenues for employee response to an observed safety hazard. First, the employee should immediately notify a supervisor, as you did, and the supervisor is required to immediately investigate the situation and take action to correct the hazard if necessary. An employee may use a designated form (1767) for this purpose and the employer is required to respond within the same tour or no later than one day from the submission of the form. Second, the employee should notify their Steward. Who may also discuss the unsafe condition with management. Third, an employee may file a grievance at the formal Step A level of the grievance procedure (bypassing the initial informal Step). Finally, the employee may make a written report of the hazard to the Union representative from the local Safety and Health Committee, who may then discuss the report with the employee's supervisor. Unfortunately, USPS management's usual approach to safety is to ignore it wherever possible until an employee is injured. Once an injury occurs and is reported, management's usual response is to blame the employee and retaliate with disciplinary action, however unjustified, with the hope of intimidating and deterring that employee and others from reporting future on the job injuries.

Q16: Management told me that approval of leave without pay (LWOP) is always at their discretion. Is that true?

     No, that is not true. There are several situations where the use of Leave Without Pay (LWOP) is at the discretion of the employee and not management. The most common example is leave for absences where there is an accepted and existing FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act) claim. Sick leave, annual leave, or LWOP, or a combination of these can be chosen by the employee to cover an absence for their own FMLA qualifying serious illness or off the job injury. Management has no say whatsoever in this determination.
    In the instance of an accepted FMLA absence to care for a qualifying family member with a serious illness or injury, up to 80 hours annually of Sick Leave for Dependent Care (SLDC) can be used, per a NALC/USPS Contractual Memorandum on this issue and the Employee and Labor Relations Manual (ELM) section 513.12. Additional FMLA-approved time off beyond the Contractual SLDC entitlement in such situations is charged to LWOP or annual leave, again at the discretion of the employee.
    Additionally, even where there is not an accepted FMLA claim, absences that qualify for sick leave but where the employee’s sick leave balance has been exhausted can be charged to LWOP or annual leave at the choice of the employee, NOT at the discretion of management. This is per the provisions of the Article 10, section 5.B of the Contract and the Employee and Labor Relations Manual (ELM) section 513.61. In fact, we commonly catch management improperly taking an absent employee’s annual leave in this situation without first obtaining approval from the employee and without first ascertaining his/her choice of leave to be used.
    Also, letter carriers that are delegates to Union conventions can choose to use annual leave or LWOP (or a combination thereof) to cover absences to attend these conventions, per Article 24 of our Contract. Finally, be aware that in most other instances the granting of LWOP is at management’s discretion, in accordance the provisions of the Employee and Labor Relations Manual (ELM), section 514.22

Q17: Management did a one-day mail count on my route last week. They never told me that they were going to count my mail until I came to work that morning. They also refused to let me verify their mail count. Was this wrong?

     Management’s failure to pro-vide you with at least one day’s advance notice of that mail count and their refusal to allow you to verify the count are both violations of the Contract and as such are grievable issues. The M-39 handbook, section 141.2 states that “When management desires to determine the efficiency of a carrier in the office, a count of mail may be made. The carrier must be given one day’s advance notification of this special count.” Additionally, in accordance with M-39 handbook, section 222.131, the carrier may, upon request, verify the entire mail count. The right of a letter carrier to verify the entire count applies both to regular mail count and inspections as well as to one day mail counts, per Step 4 decisions NC-W-7059 (M-00632) and H4N-5T-C 42333 (M-00814). Additionally, the carrier must be provided with a copy of the results of the mail count (form 1838-C) and the results must be discussed with him or her.

Q18: Can management set an appropriate pace at which letter carriers must walk?

     False. The provisions in (Pre-arb) M-00304 indicates that there is no set pace at which carriers must walk and no street standard for walking.

Q19: I filed a grievance and my Steward met with management at the informal step and settled the grievance without my knowledge. Don’t I have the right to be there when my grievance is discussed?

     You not only have a contractually guaranteed right to be present when your grievance is discussed at the initial (informal) step of the Dispute Resolution Process, but you should insist on it. Moreover, you should also be present whenever possible during the adjustment (settlement) phase of your own grievance when this is done at the informal step. In many instances you may have pertinent facts and information that the steward would not be able to present or clarify during the discussion of the issue(s) with management. Remember that neither management nor the Union ever has the right to arbitrarily exclude an individual grievant from any initial (informal) discussion of their grievance. If you do not wish to participate in the discussion, merely notify the steward of your wishes. Of note, an individual grievant is not entitled to be present at the formal (second) Step of the Dispute Resolution Process, unless agreed to by both management and the Union.

Q20: Can USPS employees be excused from work to vote in a local or Federal election?

     The Employee and Labor Relations Manual (ELM), Section 519.32, sets forth USPS policy concerning voting. Employees are encouraged to exercise their voting rights and can be excused with pay (administrative leave) for a reasonable time when necessary to vote in Federal, State, and local elections on days they are scheduled to work. However, this is a manner of administrative determination. Such determination and the procedures to be followed should be made known to employees in order for them to obtain advance approval for the absence. A general rule is known as the “3-hour rule” which provides that if the polls are not open at least 3 hours before OR after an employee’s scheduled hours of work, he or she may be excused for a reasonable time in order to vote. For most letter carriers in Michigan the polls are not open three hours before the beginning of our scheduled tour, since the polls open at 7:00 a.m. and most letter carrier assignments have a 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. start time. However, all letter carriers whose tour ends by 5:00 p.m. still have three hours during the evening to vote. If you expect that your schedule on Election Day will preclude you from being able to vote between 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m., notify your supervisor as soon as possible. Of note, employees whose work schedules would interfere with voting during regular poll hours are also allowed to vote by absentee ballot, and are strongly encouraged to do so.

Q21: Management in my office is constantly having letter carriers sign for things such as training or attending service and safety talks. Can they require us to sign for such things?

     No, they cannot, and such signature requirements are typical of the childish, distrustful mindset of our employer. However, do not disobey an instruction to do so - with one specific exception which is discussed below. Generally, employee signature requirements are limited to forms 3971 (request for leave) and 3189 (request for temporary schedule change) as well as accountable mail items as defined in the M-41 handbook, section 261, which are registered, certified, express mail, postage due, customs duty and C.O.D. items, as well as arrow keys. The following is a partial listing what letter carriers are NOT required to sign for: Training of any type, attendance at safety or service talks, receipt of printed or verbal information, locally developed or modified forms, vehicle keys, gas cards, DPS error logs, and disciplinary actions. Although the general protocol is for letter carriers to follow instructions (even when improper) to sign for such items and then see their steward to initiate the appropriate grievance, there is one specific exception to that requirement. Letter carriers can refuse, without fear of disciplinary reprisal, an instruction to sign 2488 – Authorization for Release of Medical Information – and we should ALWAYS refuse to do so. As discussed in previous issues of the “Speaks,” the NALC at the National level as well as the Branch level strongly discourages letter carriers from signing form 2488 under any circumstances.

Q22: I wanted to take a vacation week in December but did not have enough annual leave remaining to cover the entire week. Management told me that I must cancel the entire vacation week even though I was short only about eight hours of leave. Is that correct?

     NO, that is NOT correct. Management frequently misinforms Branch 2184 letter carriers about this subject. Item 4, section 2(e) of the Branch 2184 Local Memorandum of Understanding states that “if sufficient leave is not available, the carrier shall determine any forfeiture, which must be consecutive.” This means that you are only required to cancel the amount of leave you are short, and not the entire vacation. If it is necessary to cancel more than one day, the canceled days must be consecutive; for example a Monday and a Tuesday. In the specific situation described in the above question, a carrier needing forty hours of leave to cover a vacation week and having a balance of thirty-two hours would have to cancel only ONE day of the vacation, and this day would be chosen by the carrier, not management.

Q23: I have a mounted (curbline) route. Management told me that if the mailboxes are blocked, such as by cars or by snow, that I must get out of the vehicle and attempt delivery. Is this right?

     Many letter carriers commonly misbelieve that they can arbitrarily withhold delivery to any curbline mailbox that is temporarily blocked. In fact, we are required to attempt to deliver the mail, as long as this can safely be done. As always, the sole determination of what is safe rests with the letter carrier. From the Postal Operations Manual (POM), section 632.14 – Approach to Mailbox: “Where the approach to the mail receptacle located at the curb is temporarily blocked by a parked vehicle during normal delivery hours for the area, or snow or ice hampers the approach to the mailbox, the carrier normally dismounts to make delivery. If the carrier continually experiences a problem in serving curbline boxes and where the customer is able to control parking in front of his or her mailbox but does not take prompt corrective action after being properly notified, the postmaster may, with the approval of the district manager, withdraw delivery service.”
    The preceding language clearly conveys upon management the authority to withdraw delivery service where the problem is continual in nature. However, in the instance of a mailbox that is temporarily blocked, letter carriers are indeed required to attempt delivery. Of note, if delivery is attempted and cannot be made because of the safety issues, the carrier should always complete forms 1571 (report of curtailed mail) and 1767 (report of safety hazard) upon returning from the street that day.

Q24: I called in sick the day before a holiday. Management told me that I would not be paid for the holiday because I did not come in the day before. Were they right?

     No, they were not right, and management frequently misinforms employees about this issue. Article 11, section 2 of the Contract addresses this matter. To be eligible for holiday pay, a fulltime employee must merely be in a pay status (not necessarily working) on either the employee’s last scheduled hour before or the first scheduled hour after the holiday. The fact that an employee in this instance “did not come in” on the day before the holiday is irrelevant, as long as he/she was in a pay status, which includes the use of sick or annual leave. However, if an employee is in a leave without pay (LWOP) status on both their last scheduled hour before and their first scheduled hour after a holiday, then – and only then – will they forfeit eligibility for holiday pay.

Q25: I am on the regular Overtime Desired List. Last Tuesday many Non-ODL carriers on my office worked overtime, but management held me to 8 hours. They told me this was allowable because they were giving me my “8 hour day” Was this right?

     No, this was not right, and it is likely that a contract violation occurred under the circumstances you described. Management is not required to utilize a regular ODL employee in a penalty overtime status prior to assigning work to a non-ODL full time regular carrier on their own assignment (up to 10 hours). However, in this specific situation (on a Tuesday) you would NOT have been in a penalty overtime status if management assigned up to two hours of this work to you. You were available to do this work in this situation and management was contractually obligated to assign it to you instead of requiring one or more Non-ODL carriers to work the overtime. An alleged need for a so-called “8 hour day” is not a contractually legitimate management claim until the need for this actually occurs. Such a need can only occur on the fifth regularly scheduled workday of a full time employee’s service week, and then only if overtime work has been performed by the employee on the preceding four scheduled workdays. Thus, management can never legitimately make the claim that an “8 hour day” is necessary on a Tuesday for a regular ODL carrier when Non-ODL carriers are working overtime the same day. Of note, if there is no overtime work assigned to any Non-ODL full time employee on a given day, management may then legitimately hold any regular ODL carrier to an “8 hour day” on that same day.

Q26: Management is sending injured letter carriers from another USPS Installation to my office to do letter carrier work. This is depriving carriers from my office of overtime that they should be entitled to. Can they do that?

     Under the circumstances defined in this question, the short answer is yes, they can. There is a “pecking order” for assigning limited duty work (where a job-related injury claim has been accepted by OWCP). This is established in the Employee and Labor Relations Manual (ELM) section 546.142, which provides for the assignment of this work, even to an “imported” limited duty carrier, under specific fact/circumstances. Management’s obligations involving the assignment of work to employees with job-related injuries are also incorporated into our Contract through Articles 13 and 21. Of course, if the work performed by an “imported” limited duty carrier results in the denial of 8 hours daily work (not overtime work) to a carrier, or the arbitrary denial of the duties of a fulltime bid assignment (again, not overtime work), then a contract violation (Article 41) would exist. However, when sufficient work is not available within a limited duty carrier’s work restrictions in their own Installation, management has every right – in fact, an obligation – to find work elsewhere, per the ELM 546.142.a (4). Finally, it is again appropriate to reiterate that no one is “entitled” to overtime work. Only when management chooses to assign work for overtime do the provisions of Article 8 apply. As discussed above, this work was properly assigned to a limited duty carrier at the straight time rate. Additionally, management’s obligation to abide by the requirements of ELM 546.142 was recently reiterated in a National Level USPS document. It is duplicitous for the union to argue on one hand that management is failing to make every effort to provide limited duty work – as we do in National Reassessment Process (NRP) withdrawal of work grievances - and then claim that other letter carriers are somehow entitled to this work for overtime.

Q27: I called in sick last week and when I returned to work my supervisor called me into the office and said that I was “hooking” my sick days. What was she talking about?

     Nothing of any contractual validity. Management’s phony claim about employees intentionally “hooking” their sick leave absences with nonscheduled days is simply a persistent myth that is easily debunked by some simple logic and mathematics. Since all fulltime carriers in Branch 2184 have Sunday and a rotating weekday as nonscheduled days, about 65% of all scheduled days are already in conjunction with an NS day or a holiday. Thus a fulltime carrier, using random probability has a two out of three chance of having any sick leave absence “hooked” with one of more nonscheduled days. In fact, using management’s “logic” a fulltime carrier could never use sick leave on a Saturday or a Monday without being accused of “hooking,” since both days are always in conjunction with a non-scheduled day – Sunday. Since none of us can plan in advance when we might become incapacitated for work by illness or off-the job injury, management’s specious claim of “hooking” is simply more of the same unsubstantiated and distrustful paranoia that has characterized their labor relations approach for decades.

Q28: I was unable to work one day last week because I was sick. My supervisor told me to provide medical documentation, but when I gave it to him he said that it was unacceptable because it did not state that I was “totally incapacitated.” Is that required when I get medical documentation?

     No, it is not. Management requirements of “total incapacitation” are an offshoot of another erroneous management claim, that medical documentation must have a diagnosis and prognosis. Neither requirement is proper. The Employee and Labor Relations Manual (ELM) section 513.364 defines the requirements for the contents of medical documentation when it is requested or otherwise required. This provision states, in part, that “The documentation should provide an explanation of the nature of the employee’s illness or injury sufficient to indicate to management that the employee was (or will be) unable to perform his or her normal duties for the period of the absence.” Nothing in that language even implies a requirement of “total incapacitation.” Moreover, an employee’s inability to perform normal letter carrier work duties has nothing to with “total incapacitation.” One note of caution: Medical statements such as “under my care” or “was seen by” are by themselves insufficient for purposes of providing the required explanation of the nature (not a diagnosis) of the illness or injury. Finally, any demand for documentation of an absence that is three work days or less and is due to illness or off the job injury should always be responded to with a grievance once you have returned to work and the documentation has been provided, unless you are on restricted sick leave.

Q29: I have some work restrictions because of an off-the-job injury and management gave me a letter that told me that in order to be provided light duty work I must update my medical restrictions every 30 days. Is that right?

     No, that is not right. Employee requests for light duty work are voluntarily made in accordance with Article 13 of the Contract (note, light duty is for off-the job medical issues and should not be confused with limited duty which is for job-related medical conditions). Such requests must be initially accompanied by medical documentation from the employee’s physician that sets forth what accommodations are necessary for the employee’s regular duties. Ordinarily, the employee should provide updates whenever he or she has scheduled medical appointments. However, an arbitrary requirement that these updates must be provided every 30 days is improper. A National level interpretive (Step 4) grievance settlement dated April 9, 2001 provides that “the practice of requiring an automatic update of medical information every 30 days is contrary to the intent of Article 13 and, therefore, will be discontinued.” Unfortunately, the existence of this language has not stopped management from continuing the “30 days” canard for medical updates of light duty.

Q30: I was a T-6 carrier who involuntarily lost my assignment due to route adjustments in my office. Am I still entitled to T-6 level pay?

     Yes, under the circumstances described above you are entitled to “saved grade,” which is an indefinite continuation of T-6 level (CC-2) pay, per the provisions of Article 9, section 6 of our Collective Bargaining Agreement and USPS regulations found in the Employee and Labor Relations Manual, sections 421.531 and 421.532. This entitlement to continued CC-2 pay continues as long as the employee bids on any subsequent T-6 positions that are posted for bid in their own USPS Installation. Of note, the letter carrier in this instance need not be the successful bidder on any subsequent T-6 vacancies that are posted, but they must submit a bid in order to remain eligible for continued CC-2 pay. If you are a former T-6 who has involuntarily lost his/her bid assignment due to route adjustments or similar reasons, be sure that your pay has been continued at the CC-2 rate. If not, see your steward immediately.

Q31: Overtime desired list carriers in my office that are unable to work their nonscheduled day are told by management to fill out a form 3971 (Request for or Notification of Absence) for that day. How can leave be requested for a day that we are already scheduled off?

     Regular ODL carriers that are unable or unwilling to work on nonscheduled days where they would otherwise be needed should be charged with a missed opportunity for purposes of determining quarterly equity. However, the use of a 3971 for this purpose is completely improper and a wholly inappropriate use of the form. There are many legitimate rea-sons for requesting leave on a form 3971 and at least thirty “PSDS codes” for administratively recording employee absences that occur during scheduled hours and on regularly scheduled days. However, there are no codes and there is no basis whatsoever for using a 3971 for any purpose other than for a leave request, which by definition must occur during scheduled work hours. Therefore it is improper to utilize form 3971 for declining an overtime opportunity (which by definition is always outside of the regular work schedule). The use of a 3971 in this manner constitutes a violation of Articles 8 and 10 of our Con-tract as well as USPS leave regulations set forth in Subchapter 510 of the Employee and Labor Relations Manual.

Q32: I turned in a copy of my medical documentation for my absence from work and my supervisor told me that the documentation submitted to management must be the original documentation from my doctor, and not a copy. Is this correct?

     No, that is not correct. This is common but entirely bogus claim on the part of management in some offices. USPS regulations regarding employee medical documentation (ELM 513.364 and ELM 865.4) contain no such requirement whatsoever, nor is there any existing contractual or legal requirement that only original documentation must be submitted. In short, management is, as usual, simply making stuff up, and in doing so is imposing a requirement exceeds the scope of their authority. Of note, when submitting a copy of any documentation to management, be sure that it is legible.

Q33: My doctor prescribed special shoes for me to wear at work. My supervisor told me that this means I must request “light duty.” Is that correct?

     No, that is not correct, and in fact it is wrong on several levels. First of all, all “light duty” requests, which are made under the provisions of Article 13 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement as well as items 15 – 17 of the Branch 2184 Local Memorandum of Understanding, are voluntary on the part of the employee and cannot be compelled by management under ANY circumstance. Additionally, “light duty” requests are only appropriate when an employee has medical restrictions which impact their ability to perform some of their regular duties. In instances where an employee can perform all of his/her duties 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, a “light duty” request is unnecessary and inappropriate for any reason. Common examples of situations where management often improperly attempts to require a “light duty” request are (but are not limited to): An inability to work overtime (more than 8 hours a day or 5 days a week), the use of a satchel cart, uniform changes such as special shoes, and the need to take medication while working. None of these situations properly warrants a “light duty” request on the part of the employee because none of them affect the employee’s ability to perform their regular letter carrier duties.

Q34: I became an unassigned regular carrier because my assignment was abolished. Am I still entitled to a regular permanent schedule and a rotating nonscheduled day?

     Yes, you are entitled to maintain both a regular permanent fixed schedule and a rotating nonscheduled day. Article 7.1.A.1 of our Contract requires that all fulltime regular carriers have established permanent regular schedules. If management schedules you to come to work at a different time, they must pay you either out of schedule pay or overtime pay (depending on when you were notified of the temporary change) for the time worked outside of your established regular schedule. Additionally, in accordance with Item 2 of Branch 2184’s Local Memorandum of Understanding (LMU), ALL full time regular carriers, including all unassigned regulars, must be given a rotating nonscheduled day. Of note, if an unassigned regular carrier uses his/her seniority to opt on a temporarily vacant assignment (this is also known as a hold-down), they assume the schedule of the opted for assignment for the period of the temporary vacancy.

Q35: Are letter carriers that suffer frostbite while delivering mail eligible for worker’s compensation (OWCP) benefits?

     Yes, frostbite that occurs while delivering mail is considered a job-related traumatic injury and should always be reported on form CA-1. Frostbite and also heat-related illnesses that sometimes occur while delivering mail during the summer months are two of the most underreported job-related letter carrier medical conditions. It is always in your best interest to report any job-related injury or medical condition by utilizing OWCP forms CA-1 (traumatic injury) and CA-2 (occupational illness/ disease). Branch 2184 provides competent and timely assistance regarding all injury compensation/OWCP issues for any member that requests it.

Q36: I wasn’t paid for some of the overtime I worked during a recent pay period. How can I investigate this?

     The first thing that any employee should do in this situation is notify their steward or the Branch 2184 office ASAP, so that we can investigate. Unfortunately, for many years some management representatives in Branch 2184-represented offices and throughout the United States have fraudulently altered and/or deleted employee time records with the intent of cheating employees out of wages earned in order to make management’s “numbers” look better or to create false data for purposes of evaluating assignments for route adjustments. It is a sad commentary on the current state of the USPS that cheating and stealing from employees is such a common and tacitly encouraged management practice. Two additional notes: First, all letter carriers should routinely keep their own time log of hours worked to match up with their paystub. Second, when you suspect that management has engaged in time and wage fraud, do NOT call the OIG or Postal Inspectors yourself. Time and wage fraud is a removable offense, but apparently only for craft employees. For management, cheating and stealing is more likely to get them promoted. Let your union conduct the investigation.

Q37: A clerk was excessed to my unit as a regular. I am a PTF with 3 years of craft seniority, will he have more seniority than me?

     The answer is no. Clerks, Mailhandlers and others that are excessed into the letter carrier craft always start a new period of craft seniority. Although the excessed clerk will remain a fulltime regular, he will be placed at the very bottom of the carrier seniority list. JCAM Articles 12.5.B.10 and 41.2.G are clear. Article 12.5.B.10. This language requires that the craft article seniority provisions determine the seniority of employees excessed from one craft to another. Under the provisions of Article 41.2.G employees from another craft excessed into the letter carrier craft begin a new period of seniority. They will be junior to all current part-time flexibles, and not just one day junior to the junior full-time regular. Article 41.2.G An employee from another Postal Service craft who is transferred, either voluntarily or involuntarily, to the letter carrier craft will begin a new period of seniority - except when the assignment qualifies under the provisions of Article 13.6.A., pertaining to cross-craft reassignments of employees for the purpose of assuming light-duty assignments.

Q38: I was told that I would not be paid a lump sum for this years unused annual when I retire. I have carried over 440 hours from last year and have not used any annual leave this year. When I retire at the end of this year I will have 440 hours carry over leave and about 26 days of unused annual leave for this year. Can the Post Office not pay me for those 26 days?

     In this case the answer is yes. The maximum carryover amount, i.e., the maximum amount of previously accumulated annual leave with which an employee may be credited at the beginning of a year, is as follows: ELM 512.321 - Bargaining Unit Employees. The maximum leave carryover for bargaining unit employees is 55 days (440 hours). It is more clear in ELM 512.811 “Any part of the unused annual leave earned during the leave year of separation that is in excess of the maximum carryover amount is granted prior to separation rather than paid out in the form of a lump sum payment. No payment is made for unused leave that the employee would have been required to forfeit at the end of the leave year.” Do not retire with more than 440 hours of unused annual because you will only get a lump sum payment for 440 hours. Use it before retirement or it will be forfeited.

Q39: I was injured while delivering mail and my supervisor told me that if I officially reported the injury that I would be disciplined. What should I do?

     Ignore the supervisor and immediately report the injury by requesting and completing OWCP form CA-1, Notice of Traumatic Injury and Claim for Compensation, and then seek medical treatment for the injury if needed. Additionally, see your steward as soon as possible and provide a detailed statement about what the supervisor said, and also report this to the Branch 2184 office.
    The supervisor’s misconduct in this matter constitutes a very serious violation of Federal Law, specifically the Federal Employees Compensation Act (FECA), Title 5, part 81 of the United States Code. Additionally, such obstructive behavior violates the United States Department of Labor Office of Workers Compensation (OWCP) regulations for administering the FECA, specifically the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 20, part 10.16. Threats of disciplinary retaliation or any form of similar management misconduct also violates the Postal Service’s own regulations pertaining to employee injuries in the Employee and Labor Relations Manual, section 542.33.
    It is improper to attempt to coerce, intimidate, or obstruct in any manner an employee’s right to file an injury compensation claim, or to obstruct, interfere with or delay reports required in connection with reported employee injuries. However, management in some offices still utilizes tactics of intimidation and obstruction in an attempt to prevent injuries from being reported and letter carrier benefits under the FECA from being utilized. One of the most common of these tactics is the issuance of phony discipline, which also serves as a thinly veiled attempt to intimidate other letter carriers into not reporting on-the-job injuries.
    Again, ALWAYS report any job-related injury on OWCP form CA-1 as soon as possible after it occurs, even if medical care is not initially sought or thought to be necessary. Postal Service management does have a long and sordid history of issuing bogus and blatantly retaliatory discipline to letter carriers that have reported job-related injuries. However, Branch 2184 and the NALC have an equally long and very successful history of consistently overturning such phony disciplinary actions. NEVER let a management threat of disciplinary action dissuade you from utilizing ALL of your contractual and legal rights when injured on the job. If retaliatory discipline is issued, immediately request to see your steward to initiate a grievance.

Q40: My supervisor told me that the reasons that I listed on PS Form 3996 were “unacceptable.” Don’t I have the right to write whatever is relevant to my workload that day on the form?

     Yes, you DO have that right, and your supervisor has NO contractual standing to arbitrarily determine what reasons for requesting overtime and/or assistance are allegedly “acceptable” – with one specific exception. USPS Handbook M-41 (City Carrier Duties and Responsibilities) section 280, which is the instructions for completing PS Form 3996, notes that “heavy mail” is not by itself a suitable explanation when completing the “reasons” section (part J) of PS form 3996 – Carrier Auxiliary Control. Although greater detail than merely a notation of “heavy mail” is required, the specific content of that detail is still determined solely by the carrier. Again, management has no authority to unilaterally determine what they believe are “acceptable” reasons for requesting overtime or assistance. It is, of course, always advisable to keep this content relevant and focused on that day’s work duties and the carrier’s own estimate of the time necessary to complete them.
    When completing form 3996, a letter carrier should consider and list EVERY reason that the carrier believes will result in the need for more than eight hours to complete all assigned duties that day. This includes, but by no means is limited to weather conditions, high parcel volume, excessive accountable items, so-called “pivots,” and delays in leaving for the street caused by any reason – such as late receipt of mail or parcels, safety and service talks, etc. Whatever you think is relevant to the time needed to complete your duties; those are the reasons which should appear on your form 3996. Additionally, under NO circumstances can management deny a form 3996 to any carrier that requests one. However, the decision to approve overtime and/or assistance is solely theirs to make. Finally, upon request a letter carrier is entitled to a completed copy of every 3996 that he or she submits, per the provisions of Article 41, section 3.G of the Contract. Thus, you should always request a copy of the form at the time you give it management.

Q41: I wanted to change my day off during one week in order to take care of personal family matters. Management told me that I must trade my day off with another carrier on the same T-6 string. Is that true?

     No, that is not true. A fulltime letter carrier desiring to temporarily change their nonscheduled day may do so by completing PS form 3189, obtaining their steward’s signature, and submitting it to management. Although in such situations it is quite common and is also generally desirable to “trade” days off with another carrier holding an assignment on the same T-6 string of routes, this is not a requirement or condition for a temporary change of nonscheduled day.
    As noted, forms 3189 require the signature and concurrence of the unit steward or other designated union official to be valid; although the final approval of any temporary change of schedule submitted by a letter carrier is ultimately at management’s discretion. However, management should in general make every effort to accommodate schedule change requests made by letter carriers for their own personal needs. Management disapproval of a 3189 submitted by a letter carrier should only be for legitimate service needs and this decision should not be arbitrary or capricious in nature.

Q42: I was told that I could not wear headphones while delivering mail. Is that correct?

     Yes, that is very much correct, for safety-related reasons. USPS Handbook EL-814 (Employee’s Guide To Safety), section 1.G states that “The use of headsets is permissible only for employees who perform duties while seated or stationary and only where headset use does not interfere with performing duties or constitutes a safety or health hazard. Do not wear or use headsets while walking or driving, while near moving machinery, while involved in oral business communications, or while in contact with or in view of the public.”
    This clearly prohibits the wearing of headsets of any type while performing any aspect of letter carrier street duties. A related safety issue that is commonly observed with letter carriers during the delivery of mail, especially while performing curbline (mounted) deliveries, is the very dangerous practice of fingering mail or holding it in the carrier’s hands or on their lap while driving between deliveries. This is expressly prohibited by the EL- 814, section 10.E.1; “Never finger mail or hold it in your hands while you Drive,” as well as the M-41 Handbook (City Delivery Carriers Duties and Responsibilities), section 812.4; “Do not finger mail while driving or hold mail in your hands while the vehicle is in motion. You must use the mirror to check for pedestrians ahead, in back, and on both sides before placing the vehicle in motion.”
    In summary, you should never even be touching the mail unless your vehicle is at a complete stop. Otherwise, you are not in full control of the vehicle and are not fully attentive to driving conditions, and thus you cannot respond as quickly or effectively should conditions warrant an immediate response. It only takes a split second of inattention for an accident to occur. What’s your hurry, anyway?

Q43: I am a City Carrier Assistant (CCA) and I was bitten by a dog and needed medical care as well as a limited work schedule for several days. My supervisor told me that I “wasn’t covered” by Workers Compensation. Is that right?

     Your supervisor provided you with false information. Every Postal Service employee, both career and non-career, is fully covered by all of the provisions and benefits of the Federal Employees Compensation Act (FECA) from day one of their USPS employment. CCAs that sustain an on-the-job injury should immediately report it to management and then request and promptly complete U.S. Department of Labor OWCP (Office of Workers Compensation Programs) form CA-1. All injured letter carriers should also obtain form OWCP form CA-16 from management and seek medical treatment if needed from the physician of their choosing. Additionally, every injured letter carrier (and especially CCAs) should also notify their steward and/or the Branch 2184 office of the injury as soon as possible. Management can and will mislead and misinform injured letter carriers regarding their rights under the FECA as well as OWCP’s regulations for administering the FECA. Please keep in mind that every NALC member is entitled to detailed assistance from the Union with every aspect of the often complicated injury compensation process.

Q44: I am a regular blood donor. Can this be done during work hours?

     Yes. Paid blood donor leave is specifically provided for in USPS leave regulations that are found in the Employee and Labor Relations Manual (ELM), section 519.51. The specific USPS policy states that “All postal employees are urged to cooperate fully with the public blood donation programs for the health and security of their community. The time necessary includes the time required for travel and the time required by the medical facility to process the blood donations.” This means that Postal employees may be excused for that period of time deemed reasonably necessary (up to 8 hours) to cover any absence from regular tours of duty to make voluntary blood donations. This does not apply to employees that voluntarily donate blood on their own time, off duty. It is appropriate to provide management with as much advance notice as possible after an appointment has been made to donate blood. Postmasters and other Installation heads may also make arrangements with mobile blood banks for onsite blood drives conducted at Post Office facilities. Additionally, career postal employees who wish to donate bone marrow, stem cells, blood platelets, or organs may also be granted administrative leave. The maximum time granted to a fulltime career employee is 3 days for bone marrow, stem cell, and blood platelet donations, and 14 days for organ donations.

Q45: My supervisor told me that my two 10-minute breaks in the field were for using the restroom and other personal needs. Is that true?

     Your supervisor misinformed you. The purpose of the union-negotiated 10-minute breaks for letter carriers is for them to take an actual break from working. The specific Contractual language regarding the breaks is found the M-39 Handbook, section 242.341 - Street Time Allied Work Rules: “The carriers at the delivery unit will receive two 10-minute break periods. The local union may annually opt to have either (a) both breaks on the street or (b) one of the 10-minute breaks in the office and one break on the street. If two 10-minute breaks are taken on the street, they will be separate from each other. Breaks must be separate from the lunch period. The carrier shall record on Form 1564-A, Delivery Instructions, the approximate location of the break(s). Reasonable comfort stops will not be deducted from the carrier’s actual time.” Thus, the applicable work rules make it clear that the necessary time for “comfort stops” for using the restroom and similar purposes such as replenishing fluids by drinking water on a hot day is separate from and in addition to your two 10-minute Contractual breaks.
    Of further note, Branch 2184 has always opted for both of the breaks to be taken on street time. Additionally, the 10-minute breaks are mandatory, not optional. Contractual breaks must be observed and cannot be waived by employees. National Arbitrator Britton has ruled that the Postal Service must ensure that all employees stop working during a break (H4N-3D-C 9419, December 22, 1988, C-08555).

Q46: I am on the regular Overtime Desired List. Last Tuesday many Non-ODL carriers in my office worked overtime, but management held me to 8 hours. They told me this was allowable because they were giving me my “8 hour day.” Was this right?

     No, this was not right, and it is likely that a contract violation occurred under the circumstances you described. Management is not required to utilize a regular ODL employee in a penalty overtime status prior to assigning work to a non-ODL full time regular carrier on their own assignment (up to 10 hours). However, in this specific situation (on a Tuesday) you would NOT have been in a penalty overtime status if management assigned up to two hours of this work to you. You were available to do this work in this situation and management was contractually obligated to assign it to you instead of requiring one or more Non-ODL carriers to work the overtime. An alleged need for a so-called “8 hour day” is not a contractually legitimate management claim until the need for this actually occurs. Such a need can only occur on the fifth regularly scheduled workday of a full time employee’s service week, and then only if overtime work has been performed by the employee on the preceding four scheduled workdays. Thus, management can never legitimately make the claim that an “8 hour day” is necessary on a Tuesday for a regular ODL carrier when Non-ODL carriers are working overtime the same day. Of note, if there is no overtime work assigned to any Non-ODL full time employee on a given day, management may then legitimately hold any regular ODL carrier to an “8 hour day” on that same day.

Q47: I am a City Carrier Assistant (CCA). Management told me that I have to wait for them to call me each day to tell me if and when I should come to work that day. Is this proper?

     No, that is not at all proper. Under NO circumstances can management require any employee to be “on call” as a condition of employment. This issue is directly addressed in the CCA “Questions and Answers,” a National level USPS-NALC document that is incorporated into our Contract, specifically Question #25: Can CCAs be required to remain on “stand-by” or remain at home for a call-in on days they are not scheduled to work? Answer: No. Additionally, this issue has previously been addressed by several National Level grievance settlements during the past 30 years, all of which provide that USPS employees are not under any circumstances required to remain at their home or to call the Post Office to ascertain whether their services are needed. One of the few actual responsibilities of Postal Service management is to schedule employees to work, and they should do this in a timely manner. It’s not our job to do management’s “work” for them.

Q48: Management in my station claimed there was a new policy where carriers could not talk or leave their cases during the first hour of work. Can they do that?

     NO, they cannot do that. Such policies, which are sometimes known as a “golden hour” or similar designation, have been repeatedly found by arbitrators, by the National Labor Relations Board, and by other legal rulings/precedents to be illegal and unenforceable. Despite this, from time to time Postal Service management in various places throughout the United States continues to attempt to create and enforce some version of a “golden hour.”
    To be clear, letter carriers CAN talk quietly while casing mail and performing other office duties, subject only to the provisions of USPS Handbook M-41 (City Delivery Carrier Duties and Responsibilities) section 112.25, which states that: “Be prompt, courteous, and obliging in the performance of duties. Attend quietly and diligently to work and refrain from loud talking and the use of profane language.” Thus, any attempt by management to instruct an employee or employees not to talk while working is improper and should be immediately challenged through the grievance procedure. Additionally, letter carriers can leave their cases at any time as needed to tend to personal needs, to obtain necessary forms (i.e. form 3996) and supplies, or to engage in work-related business with other employees or management.

Q49: My supervisor told me that she was putting me on a “deems desirable” list and that I had to provide acceptable documentation if I called in sick. What does this mean?

     “Deems desirable” is an internal management program that arbitrarily targets employees by requiring documentation of absences. It is based on two words taken from a single phrase in the Employee and Labor Relations Manual (ELM), section 513.361. The “deems desirable” program is otherwise not authorized or referenced in any Contract, handbook or manual provision. Of importance, “deems desirable” is entirely separate from and is unrelated to restricted sick leave, which is a specific administrative action defined by the provisions of the ELM 513.391. Because it takes management at least nine months to properly place an employee on restricted sick leave, “deems desirable” is sometimes referred to as a lazy supervisor’s version of restricted sick leave.
    Of significance, unless your absence from work is four work days or more, any documentation demand made under the auspices of “deems desirable” can and should always be responded to with a timely grievance upon return to work. Grievance remedy should include compensation for any documented out of pocket costs incurred while complying with the “deems desirable” demand, such as (but not limited to) medical copays and mileage.
    Finally, “acceptable documentation” is defined in the ELM 513.364, which states in part “The documentation should provide an explanation of the nature of the employee’s illness or injury sufficient to indicate to management that the employee was (or will be) unable to perform his or her normal duties for the period of absence. Normally, medical statements such as “under my care” or “received treatment” are not acceptable evidence of incapacitation to perform duties.” Please note that under NO circumstances should documentation ever contain a medical diagnosis or prognosis, nor any statement to the effect that the employee was “totally incapacitated.” Rather, it should merely provide a short explanation of why normal letter carrier duties could not be performed.

Q50: I am 57 years old and have been a letter carrier for 28 years. I heard that this means that I don’t have make standards anymore. Is that true?

     In a word – NO. That is not true in any practical manner whatsoever. What you “heard” is one of the oldest and most persistent myths there is concerning letter carrier duties. Its source is section 242.14 of USPS Handbook M-39, Management of Delivery Services. This section of the M-39 Handbook specifically deals with determining the office time for an assignment during the adjustment phase following a “full blown” mail count and inspection. It allows for an “exception” (at management’s discretion) for fixing scheduled office time at less than the minimum office casing standards or 18 letters and 8 flats per minute if performance is otherwise “satisfactory.” This rare and very limited circumstance otherwise has no practical application to letter carrier duties and thus it is otherwise meaningless. Also, keep in mind that there are no “street standards” for letter carrier work to begin with, regardless of age or years of service.

Q51: My supervisor gave me an attendance review and wanted me to sign a paper that I had been given the review. Did I have to sign it?

     The signature requirement was by itself quite improper, but this question also raises another issue. First of all, the existence of any “attendance review” form other than a PS 3972 (the standard and official Postal Service attendance analysis form which is completed only by management) is also improper and should always be challenged with a grievance as an unauthorized and locally developed form. If management utilizes any form other than a PS 3972 when discussing attendance matters with you, notify your steward immediately.
    Additionally, there are only a few forms and documents that letter carriers can actually be required to sign. Among these are form 3971 (Request for or Notification of Leave) and form 3189 (Request for Temporary Change of Schedule). Letter carriers also must sign for the accountable items that are specifically listed in section 261 the M-41 handbook. These are as arrow keys, special services mail (certified, registered, express, and customs duty mail) and postage due mail. Additionally, employee signatures are required on U.S. Department of Labor Workers Compensation forms such as OWCP forms CA-1 and CA-2.
    The list of items that letter carriers CANNOT be required to sign for is much longer. Signatures cannot be required in response to receiving any kind of written or verbal information or instructions from management, or attendance at any kind of meeting, which includes all forms of training as well as attendance at safety and service talks. Letter carriers also should not be signing for things such as gas cards or vehicle keys; or USPS medical forms of any kind; or DPS error logs and any other kind of mail tracking forms.
    Unfortunately, Postal Service management has a long history of inappropriately attempting to require employee signatures for many, many things. The items listed above constitute only a partial list of things which do not require employee signatures. When in doubt, see your steward or call the union office. Finally, if you are given a specific instruction to sign for something and you believe that the instruction to sign is improper, comply with the instruction and then immediately request to see your steward.

Q52: I have reason to believe that management altered my clock rings and deleted some of my work hours. What should I do next?

     Letter carriers that have reason to believe that management has altered or deleted their work hour data should immediately request to meet with their steward so that this can be investigated by the union. When meeting with your steward, provide them with as much information and evidence as possible that supports your concerns. Unfortunately, wage theft committed by Postal Service management by altering and deleting employee clock ring and work hour data has long been and still is a widespread problem throughout the United States. Over the years we have discovered and effectively responded to a number of documented instances of wage theft committed by management in several of our Branch 2184-represented offices, resulting in thousands of dollars of stolen wages returned to our members. However, it is all but certain that we have not caught them every time. That is why your own vigilant monitoring of work hours on a daily basis is essential.
    Time clock and work hour fraud and wage theft are very serious offenses, but the history of this matter clearly indicates that Postal Service management is only concerned about this if they think that it was committed by a letter carrier or other craft employee. USPS management personnel caught engaging in employee wage theft or work hour falsification are typically not held accountable in any manner for their actions. “Making the numbers” gets them rewarded and promoted; stealing from those that actually do the work is irrelevant to this single-minded obsession. Despite the obvious double standard of accountability in this matter - just as is the case with many other examples of management misconduct, the most effective response by letter carriers to wage theft committed by management is still diligence and careful attention. Ultimately it is you that must protect your pay from being stolen by overzealous management.

Q53: My supervisors have been harassing me and I want to use my phone to make video and audio recordings in order to document their behavior. Can I do this?

     In a word – NO. The relevant USPS regulations regarding this issue are found in the Employee and Labor Relations Manual (ELM) section 667.21 “Interception of Oral or Wire Communications by Postal Employees. Prohibition: During the course of activities related to postal employment, postal employees may not record, monitor, or otherwise intercept the oral or wire communications of any other person through the use of any electronic, mechanical, or other device, nor listen in on a telephone conversation, nor direct another to do so, unless all parties involved in the communication are made aware of and consent to such interception.”
    Thus, it is clear that USPS employees may not conduct any kind of audio or video recording while on the clock, unless all parties involved are aware of and have consented to allow this. It is quite unlikely that such permission would be granted by the supervisors referenced in the question, or by other USPS employees. Of note, the applicable Postal Service regulations do grant a specific exemption to Postal Inspectors and Office of Inspector General (OIG) agents regarding the prohibition of surreptitious recording of employees, as long as the Inspectors or OIG employees are engaged in their official duties.
    Finally, these same regulations ALSO prohibit supervisors from placing calls to or from an employee on speakerphone without first obtaining the employee’s permission. This is a common management practice and if a letter carrier determines that he or she has been placed on speakerphone by management without first providing consent, he or she should immediately advise the caller to take them off speakerphone. If a management representative refuses to do so, advise them that you will need to see your steward ASAP to initiate a grievance.

Q54: I was recently forced to work my day off before a holiday. I am not on the Overtime Desired List and management did not maximize the ODL when making the schedule for that day. Do I have a grievance?

     Most likely there is not a Contract violation in this situation because the schedule for the day in question was created under the “Holiday Schedule” provisions of our National Agreement (Article 11) and the negotiated “pecking order” for holiday schedule work that is found in Item #13 of our Branch 2184 Local Memorandum of Understanding. Although in non-holiday schedule situations management is obliged to follow the Contractual rules regarding the assignment of overtime work which are found in Article 8 of the National Agreement, holiday schedules are formulated only in accordance with the provisions of Article 11 and Item #13 of our LMU as noted above.
    The provisions of Article 11 do require management to excuse as many fulltime letter carriers as possible, even if this requires the payment of overtime. However, this does not allow for or oblige management to first schedule Overtime Desired List employees instead of following the negotiated “pecking order” for creating a holiday work schedule. What this means is that when a holiday schedule is initially created, the ODL is not considered in any manner. However, if on the actual day of the holiday schedule the need for additional overtime work arises, the ODL should then be utilized in the manner which is normally required. Finally, management does make errors at times when creating holiday schedules. Any letter carrier who feels that this has occurred should immediately notify their steward so that this can be investigated.

Q55: Does a letter carrier that files a grievance have the right to be present during the initial grievance meeting between their steward and management?

     The answer to that question is an unequivocal and absolute YES - always. In fact, this is a significantly always choose to participate in this discussion. The applicable Contract language is found in Article 15, section 2 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement and is discussed on page 15-2 of the Joint Contract Administration Manual (JCAM), which states that “if the union initiates a grievance on behalf of an individual, the individual grievant’s participation in an Informal Step A meeting is neither required nor prohibited.”
    In all instances, it is entirely the grievant’s own choice regarding whether to be present and to participate in the initial grievance meeting. Management has no say whatsoever in this determination. Any letter carrier desiring to participate in the initial discussion of their own grievance should simply notify their steward of their intent to do so. In many instances, the input of the grievant can be helpful for this discussion by providing relevant details pertaining to the issue that might not otherwise be ascertained by the steward or management. This in turn will assist the union’s efforts to resolve as many disputes as possible at the lowest level of the grievance process.

Q56: My supervisor told me that if I called in sick the day before a holiday that I would not get paid for the holiday. Is that correct?

     No, that is not correct, and the supervisor misinformed you. Eligibility for holiday pay for fulltime career employees is defined by the provisions of Article 11, section 2 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement and by the Employee and Labor Relations Manual (ELM) section 434.421, which provides that “To be eligible for holiday pay, an employee must be in a pay status the last hour of the employee’s scheduled workday prior to or the first hour of the employee’s scheduled workday after the holiday.” What this means is that any fulltime career employee need only be in a pay status – work, annual leave, or sick leave, during either their last scheduled hour before OR their first regularly scheduled hour after the holiday, in order to receive holiday pay. In the situation described by the question above, as long as the carrier was paid sick leave for the day before the holiday - OR the carrier either worked or received any form of paid leave for the first scheduled day after the holiday, the eligibility criteria have been met for holiday pay.
    One variation of this situation occurs where an employee that was scheduled to work on their non-scheduled day or designated holiday as part of a posted holiday schedule subsequently becomes ill or is otherwise unable to work. It is not possible to receive any form of paid leave on an NS day or on a designated holiday. In this instance eligibility for holiday pay is established by either their work (or paid leave) during the last hour of their last regularly scheduled day or by their work (or paid leave) used during the first hour of their first regularly scheduled day after the holiday.

Q57: Management conducted an office count on me then walked with me all day on my route. Don’t they have to give me advance notice of this?

     Management is required to provide at least one day’s advance notice prior to doing an office count on a letter carrier, per the provisions of the M-39 Handbook (Management of Delivery Services) section 141.2. The count of the mail as well as other office functions performed by the carrier must be recorded on Form 1838-C. Additionally, the carrier being counted has the right upon request to verify management’s count of the mail (the entire count, not just a spot check). Management must also discuss the results of the office count with the carrier and must also provide a copy of the completed Form 1838 to him or her. Repeated office counts on the same letter carrier can potentially be documented as a form of harassment from management, especially if management subsequently fails to discuss the results with him or her or provide the carrier with copies.
    Management is NOT required to provide advance notice prior to conducting a street inspection (form 3999) on a letter carrier route. During such an inspection a letter carrier should merely do their assignment in the exact same manner as any other day. The supervisor should not be giving instructions or interfering with the carrier’s work, except to immediately intervene and correct an unsafe work practice if this is observed. Finally, neither one-day office counts nor one-day street inspections can be used as the sole basis for adjusting any letter carrier assignment’s office or street time, or for purposes of making a territorial adjustment (adding and/or subtracting deliveries) to that carrier’s assignment.

Q58: I was injured on the job and could not work for a few weeks. Management told me that I could not receive Continuation of Pay until it was “approved.” Was this right?

     Management seriously misinformed you. Letter carriers that incur job-related traumatic injuries (those that occur suddenly such as a dog bite or a fall or that develop entirely during a single day of work) should immediately request and complete U.S. Department of Labor Office of Workers Compensation (OWCP) form CA-1 and check box (a) on line 15 of the CA-1. This notifies management that you have requested Continuation of Pay (COP) for any periods of disability from work for a period of up to 45 calendar days. Continuation of Pay means just that – the continuation of the injured employee’s regular pay. To be eligible for COP, the injured carrier must complete and submit OWCP form CA-1 within 30 days of the injury (always do this immediately) and must provide medical evidence of disability from letter carrier duties within 10 calendar days of the submission of the CA-1.
    Of upmost importance, there is nothing within the Federal Employee’s Compensation Act (FECA) or OWCP’s regulations for administering the FECA that allows Postal Service management to withhold or delay payment of COP to any injured employee pending OWCP’s approval of the claim or pending some internal “approval” of the COP by some USPS local or district level entity.
    Of significance, about 95% of all traumatic injury claims filed by Branch 2184 members are immediately approved by OWCP “right out of the gate.” Even the few that are denied because of issues with medical documentation or establishing fact of injury are usually subsequently approved after appeal rights are exercised.
    Be aware that even if management controverts (challenges) the claim, COP must still be paid except in a few rare and limited situations, such as if the injury occurred outside of Postal Employment, or was not reported and documented within the time constraints referenced above, or was the result of willful misconduct by the employee. Additionally, any management attempt to exclude payment of COP allegedly because of one of these uncommon situations exists must be fully documented and supported by actual evidence and not merely by an arbitrary or fanciful “suspicion or belief” by management.
    Finally, because of a partisan political attack on Postal Service employees that was inserted into Postal reform legislation in 2006, there is a 3-day”waiting period” before COP actually begins, during which sick leave, annual leave, or leave without pay can be used as chosen by the injured employee. This “waiting period” applies only to USPS employees and will be discussed in greater detail in a future Contract Corner Q and A.

Q59: I was told that a Postal vehicle is exempt from local parking restrictions and that we can park our USPS vehicle wherever it is most convenient. Is this true?

     No, that is not true. The M-41 Handbook (City Carrier Duties and Responsibilities) section 812.2 clearly and directly states: “Observe all traffic regulations prescribed by law. Rules applying to the public also apply to operators of Postal vehicles.” Letter carriers are in fact required to obey all State and local traffic laws including all parking rules and restrictions while operating a Postal vehicle. An all too common myth is that some traffic rules don’t apply to those delivering mail. However, all traffic regulations apply at all times, and driving a postal vehicle conveys no special privilege or immunity whatsoever from traffic law enforcement.
    In some instances businesses and other Postal customers may provide specific permission for letter carriers to park in certain locations that are otherwise unavailable to the general public. If such permission is granted, it should be in writing and clearly known to all those delivering that particular assignment. Absent such permission, under no circumstances does a letter carrier have the unilateral authority to park a Postal vehicle wherever he/she deems as most convenient if parking is otherwise prohibited at that location. In some instances existing parking restrictions will mean that a letter carrier must walk further to make deliveries. However, the time necessary to do so is part of the time used to evaluate that assignment.

Q60: I requested a special route inspection because my assignment is well over eight hours work each day. Time data for the route showed that it qualified for an inspection, but management claimed that my work performance was not good so they did not have to inspect the route. They had never said a word before to me about any supposed problems. Can they refuse to inspect my route?

     The provisions of the M-39 handbook, section 271.g state that "if over any 6 consecutive week period (where work performance is otherwise satisfactory) a route shows over 30 minutes of overtime or assistance on each of three days or more in each week during the period, the regular carrier assigned to such route shall, upon request, receive a special mail count and inspection to be completed within 4 weeks of the request." However, management may not refuse to inspect an assignment that otherwise qualifies by making after-the-fact claims of alleged performance irregularities. The Joint Contract Administration Manual (JCAM), page 41-25, states that "Performance deficiencies should be addressed in a timely manner. Once the request is made by the incumbent letter carrier, management should not try to avoid conducting the special route inspection by attempting to identify performance deficiencies after-the-fact. Unsatisfactory performance can be a reason for denying a special route inspection only if reasonable efforts toward improving performance to a satisfactory level have not been successful and the reasons have been documented and discussed with the carrier during the six week period." In short, it appears that management in this case is using a phony and undocumented excuse to try to avoid conducting the special route inspection. When this occurs, see your Steward to initiate a timely grievance. Overall, Branch 2184 has been quite successful in obtaining monetary remedies for letter carriers that were improperly denied special route inspections.

Q61: Some customers on my route have said that they do not want ad mail such as the Red Plums delivered to them. Can I skip these addresses and just deliver the ads to those that want them?

     The answer to that question is an emphatic and unequivocal NO! An individual letter carrier has no authority whatsoever to withhold ANY deliverable mail to any address, even if a customer allegedly claims that they don’t want this mail. The provisions of Handbook M-41, City Carrier Delivery Duties and Responsibilities, section 131.33, state that “Unless otherwise instructed by a unit manager, deliver all mail distributed to your route.” It is a false and very dangerous (to your job) belief that a letter carrier can arbitrarily determine under any circumstances whether some postal customers on their assignments can or should receive certain mail. Similarly, even if the only mail for a specific customer address on a given day is an ad mailing, a letter carrier cannot skip that address to save time, unless they have been specifically authorized by management in advance to curtail delivery of the ads.
    Related to this issue is the obligation to hold ALL mail, including all ad mailings, when a customer has completed a request to do so for a temporary period. It is not a letter carrier’s job to personally determine whether such mail will be of interest or value to a customer after they return. All letter carriers should be very clearly aware that the improper disposition of any deliverable mail can and likely will lead to the very serious disciplinary action up to and including removal from the Postal Service.
    The “bottom line” here is quite straightforward: Outside of documented safety hazards such as loose dogs or other temporary hazards that could obstruct delivery, ALL mail in a letter carrier’s possession that is deliverable as addressed must be delivered, and ALL mail for a customer that has completed a “Hold” notice must be held – including ads. Again, this remains true even if a customer has verbally or in writing that they do not wish to receive certain mail. A letter carrier’s core job is to deliver all mail that can validly be delivered to every address on their assignment. Once this is done, the mail is no longer our concern and the customers can do whatever they want with it.

Q62: I am a T-6 carrier who signed the regular Overtime Desired List. When I am called in on my nonscheduled day, am I entitled to work on a vacant route on my swing?

     A T-6 has no such entitlement when working their NS day. If there is an opening on a T-6’s regular string of routes (a sick call or other absence), management certainly may choose to assign the T-6 to that route. However, this is not required, nor can the T-6 demand to be placed on the open route. The T-6 in this situation is “extra” and can be assigned to do any available letter carrier work. There is no requirement of or entitlement to any specific assignment in this situation. The Branch 2184 Local Memorandum of Understanding (LMU) provisions (Item #21, section 4) regarding the assignment of a T-6 when a regular carrier is called into work on an NS day are not applicable when it is the T-6 who is called in on an NS day. Of course, any fulltime regular carrier called in on their NS day, including a T-6, is subject to the reporting pay guarantee of 8 hours at the overtime rate, regardless where the work is performed.

Q63-M/A 2016: I have a curbline (mounted) assignment and I was told that if a customer mailbox is blocked by a car or other object such as a garbage can, then I can skip delivery for that address. Is this true?

     No, that is NOT true. A common customer service-related issue that never seems to go away is the problem of blocked customer mailboxes on curbline (mounted) delivery. Typically the boxes are blocked by parked vehicles or by trash cans, or even by piles of snow during the winter season. Over the years there has developed a continuing and widespread myth that a letter carrier in such situations can just choose to bypass that specific delivery instead of parking the postal vehicle and dismounting to deliver the mail. Except for documented safety reasons, that is simply NOT the case.
    Postal regulations, specifically the Postal Operations Manual (POM) section 632.14, clearly require a letter carrier to park the vehicle and dismount to make delivery to a blocked mailbox on a mounted route. Only in the case of a continuing problem can service to an individual customer or customers be withdrawn, and then only by the authority of the Postmaster or Installation head. Additionally, if a letter carrier believes that parking the postal vehicle and dismounting to deliver to a specific mailbox or mailboxes is unsafe, he or she should be prepared to fully document and support that claim.
    The USPS and its professional city letter carriers are in the business of delivering mail. As such, we should be making every effort to find ways to deliver the mail as long as this can be safely accomplished. We should not ever be in the business of finding reasons not to deliver mail.

Q64: My supervisor approached me with a form 3996 that had been entirely filled out and completed by management, including instructions about what mail I was to take and how long I was to work that day. However, I never requested this form. I thought that a letter carrier was supposed to initiate a form 3996. Was management right when doing this?

     No, management's actions in this regard were entirely improper. Form 3996 (Carrier Auxiliary Control) is always to be initiated by a letter carrier, and not by management, in accordance with the M-41 handbook, sections 131.43 and 280, as well as the M-39 handbook, section 122.23. In all instances, form 3996 is first requested by the carrier, who is then to complete their portion of the form, including an estimate of the time necessary to complete the assignment (overtime and/or auxiliary assistance). Management cannot deny a 3996 to the requesting employee, and they must respond to the submission of the form by a letter carrier promptly after a review of the circumstances at the time (Article 41, section 3.G). Upon request, a carrier is entitled to a duplicate copy of the completed 3996, and letter carriers should request this copy for their own records.

Q65: Management told me that I must wear the seatbelt in my postal vehicle at all times when it is in motion, even when driving in the post office parking and loading areas. Is that correct?

     Yes, that is correct. Postal Service seatbelt policy, which is found in Postal Employee’s Guide To Safety (Handbook EL-814, section 10.D.2) is as follows: You must wear safety belts at all times when the vehicle is in motion. When driving a long-life vehicle (LLV) or the carrier route vehicle (CRV), you must wear the lapbelt and shoulder belt whenever the vehicle is motion. Exception: When shoulder belts prevent you from reaching to deliver or collect from curbside mailboxes, you may unfasten the shoulder belt, but never the lap belt.
    Current USPS seatbelt regulations are also found in the M-41 Handbook (City Carriers Duties and Responsibilities), section 812.3. These same M-41 regulations further state: “When traveling to and from the route, when moving between park and relay points, and when entering or crossing intersecting roadways, all vehicle doors must be closed. When operating a vehicle on delivery routes and traveling in intervals of 500 feet (1/10 mile) or less at speeds not exceeding 15 MPH between delivery stops, the door on the driver’s side may be left open. Do not finger mail while driving or hold mail in your hands while the vehicle is in motion. You must use mirror to check for pedestrians ahead, in back, and on both sides before placing the vehicle in motion.”
    Unfortunately, Postal Service seatbelt and vehicle operation rules are frequently ignored by some letter carriers who are in too much of a rush to take the time to comply with them, thereby seriously jeopardizing their safety.
    What’s your hurry, anyway?

Q66: A letter carrier in my office has been off work for more than a year. Shouldn’t the carrier’s route be posted for bid and awarded to another carrier?

     Absent other information about this situation, the answer is clearly NO. It is common but entirely false myth that an absence of more than a year due to illness or injury means that the carrier’s assignment should be vacated and posted for bid. However, this is not and has never been the case. The relevant Contractual information can be found in Article 41, section 1.C. of the Collective Bargaining agreement and accompanying discussion in the Joint Contract Administration Manual (JCAM). There is no set or predetermined timeframe for vacating a bid assignment due to the incumbent carrier’s long term illness or injury. The absent employee continues to hold the assignment unless and until their own physician (not management’s) provides medical evidence to management that the employee’s condition is “permanent and stationary” and will prevent him or her from ever returning to the duties of the bid assignment. Upon receipt of such evidence, then (and only then) may management vacate the assignment and post it for bid in accordance with regular Article 41 procedures.

Q67: My doctor wants me to work no more than eight hours a day, but I do not have any medical restrictions on my regular letter carrier duties. Management told me that I must request “light duty.” Is that proper?

     No, that is NOT at all proper, for two definitive and contractually based reasons. First, the mere inability to work overtime is by itself not considered to be “light duty” as long as the employee can otherwise perform all letter carrier duties without modification or restriction up to eight hours a day and forty hours a week. This was clarified in a National level Step 4 (interpretive) grievance decision in October 1998 and also in a National level arbitration ruling from arbitrator Carlton Snow (Case number H1C-5K-C 24191) in March, 1991. The relevant language reads: “An inability to work overtime does not necessarily prohibit the employee from performing his or her normal assignment. Accordingly, such an individual working with such a restriction is not necessarily on “light duty.”
    Additionally, light duty itself is specifically covered by the negotiated provisions of Article 13 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. These provisions make it very clear that light duty must be voluntarily requested by an employee and as such cannot be compelled or demanded by management. In summary, an inability to work overtime by itself does NOT constitute a light duty situation. Moreover, management has no Contractual authority whatsoever to compel or demand a light duty request from any employee under any circumstances, period. Any attempt by management to demand a light duty request under these or similar circumstances should be immediately challenged with a grievance.

Q68: I was required to work on my nonscheduled day that occurred the day before a holiday and was told that this was because of a “holiday schedule.” However, I am not on any Overtime Desired list. Why was I required to work?

     There are ten USPS holidays that occur during the course of a calendar year. Fulltime employees are paid for these holidays, and because of the rotating nonscheduled days assigned to fulltime letter carriers in Branch 2184, a holiday will periodically occur on the same date as a fulltime carrier’s nonscheduled day. When this occurs, those whose nonscheduled day coincides with the holiday receive the previous work day off, which is known as their “designated holiday.”
    Because of this, there are two groups of carriers that are initially not scheduled to work the day before a holiday; those whose nonscheduled day it is and those whose designated holiday it is. This also means that management must usually schedule additional carriers to work on these days, and that is where the creation of a “holiday schedule” comes in. Important: The Overtime Desired List (Article 8 of the NALC/USPS Collective Bargaining Agreement) is NOT utilized or considered in any manner when creating a holiday schedule. Instead, holiday schedules are formulated solely under the provisions of Article 11 of the NALC/USPS Collective Bargaining Agreement, and in accordance with the locally negotiated “pecking order” for scheduling additional volunteer and (when necessary) non-volunteer letter carriers to work.
    This “pecking order” for holiday scheduling is detailed in Item #13 of the Branch 2184 Local Memorandum of Understanding (LMOU). Management must first solicit volunteers to work from among those who are not scheduled, and if this does not provide sufficient carrier staffing, they can require non-volunteers to work, with lowest seniority non-scheduled day carriers scheduled first. Those that have scheduled vacations in conjunction with a holiday are the last to be scheduled. Of note, a “scheduled vacation” in this situation does NOT mean a day or two of annual leave, but instead it means a week or more of scheduled annual leave.
    Finally, again note that nothing within this holiday scheduling process makes any mention whatsoever of the Overtime Desired List (ODL). Thus, an individual letter carrier’s status as an ODL or a Non-ODL carrier has no bearing on or relevance to the creation of a holiday schedule, only the negotiated “pecking order” discussed above.

Q69: I just became a career regular carrier and want to sign an Overtime Desired List, but I am not sure what each list means. What do I need to know before signing?

     Letter carriers desiring to volunteer for overtime work have two options, which are the Regular Overtime Desired list and the Work Assignment Overtime Desired list. The negotiated Contractual work rules for overtime work are found in Article 8 of our Collective Bargaining Agreement. Those wishing to sign either list or move from one list to the other may do so during the two weeks immediately prior to each USPS calendar quarter, which means the signup periods are the last two weeks of March, June, September, and December. However, A National Memorandum currently in effect (M-01836) allows branch presidents and installation heads or their designees to mutually agree to allow employees transferring from another installation OR that are converted to full time following these sign-up periods to place their names on the regular overtime list or the work assignment list. Our current practice, after consultation between Branch President Mark Judd and the affected installation heads, is to allow overtime list signups made under the specific circumstances defined above. Of significance, the overtime desired lists have often been referred to as a “10-hour” list and a “12-hour” list, but this is quite incorrect. There is no such thing as either of these; instead as noted above, there is only a Regular Overtime list and a Work Assignment list – period.
    Signing the Regular Overtime list means that you are making yourself available for any overtime work on any assignment at any time, up to 12 total work hours a day. This also includes work on nonscheduled days. Those signing this Regular Overtime List can indicate a preference for 10 or 12 hours of daily work; however this merely a preference. Those signing any overtime list are always considered available for up to 12 hours a day. Management is obligated to provide equitable overtime hours and opportunities for those on the Regular List. However, this obligation is quarterly in nature, and management has no obligation to assign overtime work in an equitable manner on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. Additionally, craft seniority is not a factor when assigning overtime work; those signing the regular list are always considered available to perform any overtime work on any assignment.
    The other option for overtime work is the Work Assignment list. Those signing this list are making themselves available for overtime work only on their regularly scheduled assignment (up to 12 hours) and on their regularly scheduled days. This specifically excludes work on non-scheduled days. Additionally, management has no obligation to provide quarterly equitability among those that have signed the work assignment list.

Q70: A letter carrier in my office is injured and hasn’t been able to do their assignment for over a year. Shouldn’t the assignment be posted for bid?

     Not necessarily. There is a common but persistently false myth that an inability to do one’s own assignment for more than one year automatically requires that their assignment is vacated and posted for bid. This is not the case and has never been the case. The relevant contractual provisions are found in Article 41 of the NALC/USPS Collective Bargaining Agreement, along with pertinent National level Memorandums and Settlements. These are detailed and explained in the 2014 Joint Contract Administration Manual (JCAM), pages 41-6 and 41-7.
    The pertinent language provides that prior to removing a letter carrier from their bid assignment and posting it, management must first have received medical documentation from the employee’s own physician (not a USPS contract doctor) that the medical condition is “permanent and stationary” and thus will preclude the employee from ever being able to return to the duties of their bid assignment. There is no existing negotiated or arbitrated time frame for making this determination, since each disabling medical condition is different and requires widely varying healing and recovery periods.
    Of note, when management does receive medical documentation from a letter carrier’s own physician that his or her medical condition is permanent in nature and will prevent resumption of their bid assignment duties, at that time the assignment can be vacated and posted for bid in accordance with normal Article 41 procedures, and awarded to the senior bidder.
    Finally, the information discussed above specifically applies ONLY in situations where a letter carrier’s disability and consequent work restrictions develop AFTER he or she is already assigned to a route or T-6 position. Letter carriers with existing medical restrictions can also bid on and be awarded vacant assignments in accordance with their seniority. However, in these situations management can require medical documentation which indicates that the successful bidder will be able to assume all of the duties of the assignment within six months. This can be extended for an additional six months, but not longer than one year from the time of the bid.

Q71: How does Bereavement Leave Work?

     In accordance with the provisions of a September 11, 2007 Memorandum of Understanding between the NALC and the USPS, letter carriers may use a total of up to three workdays of annual leave, sick leave, or leave without pay (LWOP), as chosen by the employee, to make arrangements necessitated by the death of a family member or to attend the funeral of a family member. “Family member” is defined as spouse, parent, son or daughter (biological, adopted, or stepchild), daughter-in-law or son-in-in-law, sibling (brother, sister, brother-in-law or sister-in- law), or grandparent. “In-laws” also include the spouse of a child and the parents and siblings of the employee’s spouse.
    A letter carrier requesting bereavement leave should complete a PS Form 3971 indicating the date(s) and type of leave desired. If sick leave is chosen, the leave will be charged to sick leave for dependent care, if the employee is eligible. The Bereavement Leave Memorandum also applies to CCAs; however, their choices of leave are limited to the paid leave that CCAs earn or leave without pay, because they do not earn sick leave.

Q72: I am a fulltime career carrier and I finished delivering my route a half hour early. When I came back to the office my supervisor told me that I had to use my annual leave and to go home. Did I have to use my leave?

     No, in that situation you did NOT have to use your own paid leave. All fulltime career letter carriers have an eight-hour pay guarantee upon reporting for work, per the provisions of Article 8, section 1 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement as well the Employee and Labor Relations Manual (ELM) section 432.31 and 432.61. Note that this a pay guarantee and it is not a work guarantee. Because of this contractually mandated eight-hour pay guarantee, any fulltime carrier completing all assigned duties in less than eight hours can never be compelled to use their paid leave to complete the balance of the day, although he or she may voluntarily choose to do so. However, be aware that by choosing to fritter away your annual leave in this manner you potentially might end up without enough leave to cover all of a scheduled vacation later that same leave year.
    Finally, management does have the right to assign additional work up to eight total hours to a letter carrier in a legitimate “undertime” situation. However, this should not to be confused with a bogus management claim of alleged “undertime” based on fictional and delusional DOIS nonsense. Should management instead choose to send a fulltime carrier home prior to the carrier’s scheduled end of tour, they must pay the remaining balance of his or her eight hour reporting pay guarantee.

Q73: Why isn’t there a “try out” period for a new assignment after a letter carrier bids on it?

     First and foremost, there is nothing within the clearly defined bidding process and Contract rules defined in Article 41 of the NALC/USPS Collective Bargaining Agreement that allows for or even makes reference to “try out” periods. Thus, adoption of such a practice would be wholly inconsistent with our National Agreement. On a more practical note, to allow “try out” periods for successful bidders on assignments would open up the bidding process to unnecessary delays and game playing that could impede the timely awarding of a bid assignment on a permanent basis to a letter carrier that desires it. This, in turn, could also potentially delay the conversion of one or more CCAs to fulltime career status.
    Of significance, each Contract cycle allows for a specific number of successful bids by letter carriers. In the current (2011-2016) contract cycle, up to seven successful bids are allowed by any fulltime carrier, per Article 12, section 3.A of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Additionally, bids to higher level (T-6) positions do not count toward the total for a contract cycle, nor do bids necessitated by the abolition of assignments due to route adjustments or other reasons where the provisions of Article 41, Section 3.O are invoked by the union. Thus, when a letter carrier determines that he or she does not want to remain on an assignment they bid on, they usually have ample opportunities to bid back on their previous assignment when it is posted for bid, or to bid on other subsequent vacancies that occur within that USPS Installation.

Q74: My supervisor said that he can violate the Contract anytime he wants to as long as the letter carriers involved agree to it. Is that true?

     No, that is certainly NOT true. The Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiated between the NALC and the Postal Service is fully binding on all parties to this agreement at all times, with no exceptions. The NALC is the legally designated exclusive bargaining agent for every city letter carrier, both career and non-career, union member and non-union member, working anywhere in the United States.
    As such, no individual or group of individuals- either USPS management or letter carrier craft employees, has the authority or standing to unilaterally agree to violate or disregard any portion of the Contract under any circumstances, period. Additionally, local representatives of the union also have no individual authority to agree to (or to ignore) any management actions or inactions which violate negotiated contractual provisions.
    The NALC/USPS Collective Bargaining Agreement also incorporates our Branch 2184 Local Memorandum of Understanding (LMOU) in its entirety, as well as all applicable work rules and regulations that are found in USPS Handbooks and Manuals such as the M-41 and M-39 Handbooks and the Employee and Labor Relations Manual (ELM). Finally, the NALC/USPS Collective Bargaining Agreement also incorporates all relevant provisions of applicable Federal Laws, including but not limited to The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), The Federal Employees Compensation Act (FECA), The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
    There are nearly 200,000 active letter carriers presently working in the United States. There is but ONE Union-negotiated National Labor Contract which is fully binding on all parties at all times. In summary, the supervisor’s opinion is both contractually and legally unsupported. His comments ultimately amount to no more than ignorant and meaningless drivel.

Q75: Can a letter carrier work overtime if they are on light or limited duty because of medical restrictions?

     Yes. Letter carriers with work restrictions are allowed to sign either the Regular or Work Assignment Overtime Desired Lists during the quarterly signup periods, and to perform overtime work that is available within their documented medical restrictions. This was clarified as part of an NALC/USPS Joint Statement on Overtime negotiated by the National parties in June, 1988, and it remains part of the existing work rules applicable to Article 8 of our Collective Bargaining Agreement.
    The relevant language goes on to provide that “whether or not an employee on limited or light duty is actually entitled to overtime depends on his/her physical and/or mental limitations.” What this means is that management has no obligation to try to assign overtime work to limited or light duty employees if none is available that meets the employees’ medical restriction criteria. Additionally, the absence of available work within existing medical restrictions can also be considered when determining quarterly equitability among those that have signed the regular Overtime Desired List.

Q76: I am off work because of a job-related injury and am receiving wage loss compensation from OWCP. Will this affect my USPS retirement credit?

     No, this will NOT impact USPS retirement credit in any manner. Unfortunately, some Branch 2184 members have been badly misinformed about this subject by unknowledgeable management representatives or by ill-informed coworkers. As long as a USPS employee has an accepted OWCP claim, any periods of Leave Without Pay (LWOP) used while drawing wage loss compensation from the U.S. Department of Labor have no effect whatsoever on time accrued for retirement credit, regardless of the duration on the rolls of OWCP. These employees receive full and continuing credit toward retirement as if they were working, per the provisions of the Employee and Labor Relations Manual, section 582.41, even if the period of LWOP and concurrent receipt of OWCP wage loss compensation goes on for years.
    Additionally, if a USPS employee incurs a period of LWOP because of an erroneous separation or suspension where they are subsequently restored to work (most commonly because of a grievance settlement), this time is also credited towards retirement. Finally, if a USPS employee has been granted LWOP to work fulltime for an employee organization such as the NALC, there is no loss of retirement credit for the time spent doing so.

Q77: I bid on a new assignment and my supervisor told me that I had ten days to learn the assignment or I could be removed from it. Is that true?

     No. There is nothing even remotely true about what the supervisor told you. The applicable Contractual language in this instance is found in Article 41, section 3.F of the NALC/USPS Collective Bargaining Agreement, which states that: “A newly appointed carrier or a carrier permanently assigned to a route with which the carrier is not familiar will be allowed a reasonable period to become familiar with the route and to become proficient.” Of paramount importance, there is NO existing negotiated or arbitrated definition of “a reasonable period,” and this can and will vary considerably depending on the complexity of the assignment and experience of the carrier. Thus, it takes what it takes to lean a new assignment – period.
    Under NO circumstances can any letter carrier ever be removed from his or her bid assignment merely because management feels that they allegedly are not “proficient.” In fact, there are only two relatively uncommon circumstances where a letter carrier can ever be removed from a bid assignment. The first is when a letter carrier holding a fulltime assignment subsequently develops a medical condition that impedes their ability to do all of the duties of the assignment and management receives medical documentation from the employee’s physician that the condition is “permanent and stationary” and thus will prevent the carrier from ever returning to the full duties of that assignment. The second circumstance is when a carrier has been detailed to a higher level assignment (most commonly a 204-B position) for more than four consecutive months. This will be addressed in a future “Contract Corner” question.

Q78: How many hours can a Letter Carrier work in one day? In one week?

     The answer depends first on the status of the carrier as either a fulltime career carrier or as a CCA. Maximum work hour limits for the fulltime career workforce are governed by the provisions of the Employee and Labor Relations Manual (ELM) section 432.2 and by Article 8, section 5.G of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Except in the month of December, fulltime career letter carriers are limited to 12 total hours in a day and 60 total hours in a service week.
    This weekly limitation of 60 total hours includes any sick or annual leave that is used during the work week, as well as any holiday pay. The daily limitation of 12 total hours also includes a half hour of mealtime, meaning that this is 11 ½ hours of actual work. An exception applies to letter carriers that have signed the Overtime Desired List, who can work 12 ½ total hours including mealtime in order to maximize their ability to work overtime in accordance with Article 8 of the Contract.
    Be aware that the 60-work hour weekly limitation for fulltime career employees that is defined above does not apply to CCAs. However, the 12-hour daily work hour maximum (including mealtime) does apply to CCAs. Finally, both career employees and CCAs receive both overtime and penalty overtime pay, as appropriate, depending on the specific fact/circumstances of their daily and weekly work. The specific parameters for overtime and penalty overtime pay will be further discussed in a future “Contract Corner” question.

Q79: I have a T-6 (Carrier Technician) bid assignment. If one of the carriers on my T-6 swing calls in sick can I choose to do that route instead of the one I was assigned to do that day?

     Under the circumstances described above, the answer is NO. Article 41, section 1.C.4 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement states that: “The successful bidder shall work the duty assignment as posted. Unanticipated circumstances may require a temporary change in assignment. This same rule shall apply to Carrier Technician assignments, unless the local agreement provides otherwise.” What this means is that T-6 carriers, just like carriers with individual bid assignments, must do their own assignments as posted; that is in the sequence of the non-scheduled days of the carriers that the T-6 is replacing. Additionally, the term “unanticipated circumstances” means just that – an unanticipated emergency situation and not something merely deemed as convenient for management or an individual letter carrier.
    As such, and with one very limited exception, T-6 carriers cannot “choose” their assignment on a daily or any other basis. This limited exception is discussed in Item 22, section 4 of our Branch 2184 Local Memorandum of Understanding (LMOU), and involves an uncommon situation where the regular carrier on the T-6’s scheduled assignment has been called into work on their non-scheduled day AND there are two or more additional open routes on the T-6 string that were caused by sick calls or other unscheduled absences. In that situation (only), the T-6 can choose which open assignment they want to move to.
    Additionally, in accordance with the same LMOU provisions, when a fulltime carrier holding an individual bid assignment is called into work on their non-scheduled day, the T-6 carrier can be moved to an open route elsewhere on their T-6 string of assignments. However, he/she can never be moved entirely off their T-6 string. If no open routes exist elsewhere on the T-6 string, then the T-6 does their normally scheduled assignment and the carrier called in on their NS day works wherever assigned by management.

Q80: I had an extended absence due to illness that included a week of scheduled vacation. I was told that I could change the annual leave for my vacation week to sick leave. How do I do that?

     Article 10, section 5.C of the USPS/NALC Collective Bargaining Agreement provides that an employee becoming ill while on annual leave may have the leave charged to sick leave upon request. The request is made on form 3971 and should also be reiterated verbally to your immediate supervisor. It would not be appropriate to use the USPS 800 number call-in system for this purpose. Medical documentation requirements in such instances are the same as for other sick leave absences. A request for three scheduled work days or less of sick leave does not require medical certification, but rather the employee’s own certification of their incapacity to work, which is made by completing and signing form 3971. If the sick leave request is for four or more scheduled work days, then the normal medical documentation requirements apply, as defined in the Employee and Labor Relations Manual, section 513.361.

Q81: When can fulltime carriers use their new annual leave balance that is credited to them at the beginning of each year?

     This question is the subject of considerable misinformation each year, most of it management-generated. In fact, in some instances leave requests for available days or weeks in January have been improperly denied based on management ignorance of the facts concerning leave availability. Confusion sometimes occurs because the new leave balance does not appear on our pay stubs until the second pay date in January. However, ALL fulltime letter carriers have available for use their entire yearly credit of leave beginning on the first day of the new leave year. This date is specifically defined by Article 10, section 4.A of the Contract and the Employee and Labor Relations Manual section 512.12.a as always occurring on the first day of the first complete pay period of new calendar year. This is typically the first Saturday in January (in some years it is the second Saturday in January). In 2007, the new leave year begins on Saturday, January 6. On that date all fulltime employees have their entire new leave balance available for use. The new leave balances will appear on pay stubs dated Friday, January 26, 2007 – three weeks after the leave is actually available for use by fulltime employees.

Q82: I was injured while delivering mail. Management gave me an “Authorization for Release of Medical Information” form and told me that I had to sign it.  I am concerned about my privacy. Did I have to sign this form?

     Absolutely not.  An employee cannot be compelled to sign the USPS “Authorization for Release of Medical Information” form, which is also known as form 2488.  Moreover, an employee should not voluntarily sign this form. A recent National Level interpretive grievance decision (M-01430) reaffirmed that an employee’s signature on such a form is always voluntary. The form in question typically authorizes the release of information from any hospital, physician, or person that has examined or attended you.  Note that such language does not specify that only information pertaining to a current injury or medical condition can be released.  By signing this form you are giving management carte blanche to scavenge through any aspect of your medical history.   If you are ordered to sign form 2488, immediately request your Steward or contact the Branch 2184 office. If management merely requests that you sign this form, it is normally in your best interests to decline. As always, your Union is available to assist you with the often-complicated injury compensation process.  Be very careful about seeking advice from management, whose interests are NOT your interests.

Q83: I changed my schedule for one day so that I could work eight hours and still make it to a doctor’s appointment. Management approved the schedule change but then told me I had to work overtime that day, making my schedule change useless. Should they be able to do that?

     Employees that have completed and approved forms 3189 for a temporary schedule change cannot be required nor can they volunteer to work post-tour overtime, in accordance with a 1992 National level pre-arbitration decision (M-01079). The decision reads, in part, that “when a from 3189 requesting an earlier leaving time is approved, the requesting employee will be passed over for any overtime that day as being unavailable.” Thus, management improperly required you to work overtime that day. The prohibition on post-tour overtime work after a 3189 is approved for an early start is absolute; it applies to ALL employees, including those that have signed overtime desired lists. In some instances, ODL carriers have completed a 3189 for an early start in the hope of getting more overtime work that day. However, the completion and approval of a 3189 restricts them to eight hours only on that day, with no exceptions. In fact, the Union cannot file a grievance on behalf of another employee that was required to work overtime as a result of passing over an employee – even an ODL employee – with an approved 3189 for an early start. Finally, the prohibition on overtime work does NOT apply when an employee has an approved 3189 to temporarily change their nonscheduled day.

Q84: If I retire at age 55 will I be able to withdraw TSP funds without paying the early withdrawal penalty?

     If you retire from the service during or after the year you turn age 55 you will be exempt from the early withdrawal penalty. You may take out as much money as you like before age 59½ without paying a penalty even if you get another job as long as it is outside of the federal government after you retire. This exemption is not available for withdrawals from a traditional IRA so be cautious if you plan to roll your TSP balance into a traditional IRA before you turn age 59½.

Q85: Can the Union post the names of nonmember on its bulletin board?

     The Union may post the names of nonmembers on its bulletin board as long as the Postal Service cannot prove that the material is unsuitable because it has caused, or will cause, an adverse impact upon the Service to direct the workforce or manage its operations efficiently.

Q86: Under what circumstances can a T-6 carrier “bump” (displace) a CCA that has opted on a temporary vacancy (holddown)?

     In all Branch 2184-represented stations there is only one specific circumstance where this can properly take place, and that is when the fulltime regular carrier for the assignment that the T-6 was scheduled to do is called in to work on their nonscheduled day. Further, there must be no other “open” assignment (i.e., an unscheduled absence) on the T-6’s string of routes to move him/her to. If BOTH of the above listed conditions are met, under those circumstances (and only then) can the T-6 displace a CCA or an unassigned regular or reserve regular carrier that has exercised their opting rights on a temporarily vacant assignment on the T-6 string. Of note, if the regular carrier on the T-6’s scheduled assignment has not been called in for overtime, then the T-6 carrier has no right whatsoever to displace (“bump’) any carrier that has opted on a temporary vacancy on the T-6’s string of routes. If this occurs without the required conditions having been met, the opting carrier’s Article 41 rights have been violated and he/she should seek appropriate compensation through the grievance procedure for being denied their rightful assignment.

Q87:Management said that I was required to tell them why I wanted to see my steward and that they could deny my request if they didn’t think it was a grievance. Is that proper?

     Management’s claims in this matter are very much improper and are contractually unsupported. Although nothing prohibits management from asking an employee the reason they are requesting to meet with a steward, employees are NOT compelled to provide a reason as a condition for granting time to meet with their steward. If the employee so chooses, he or she can provide a general description of the issue to management, but this is not mandatory under any circumstances. Even more importantly, regardless of what management thinks about an employee’s reason for requesting a steward, they have no authority to deny such requests based on their own self-serving opinions of “merit.” Moreover, the determination of whether any matter is “grievable” or not, as well as the means of response is always the sole province and authority of the Union. Management has no say whatsoever in this process. Only the Union can and only the Union will decide the appropriate response to any employee complaint that is provided to one or more or our representatives, after investigating the facts and circumstances. Management, in this situation, is simply out of the picture.

Q88: I have been scheduled for Jury Duty. How am I paid by the Postal Service when this occurs?

     The USPS regulations for court leave, including for scheduled jury duty, are found in section 516.2 of the Employee and Labor Relations Manual (ELM). Paid court leave is granted to career regular employees but not to non-career employees such as CCAs. Such leave is granted to employees that would otherwise be in a work status or on annual leave except for the required court service. It is paid at the employee’s regular straight time rate up to eight hours a day for each day that they would otherwise be scheduled to work or on annual leave. The employee should advise management by providing a copy of their jury summons as soon as is practicable. If an employee who reports for court service on a scheduled workday and is then excused early, he/she is required to report back to their postal installation for the balance of their scheduled tour of duty provided that an appreciable time is involved and it is feasible to do so. Employees serving a full day in court are not required to report to their postal duties until their next scheduled workday. No overtime is allowed for court service for any combination of court service and postal service duties. Employees can choose to have their work schedules temporarily changed to conform to court service days and hours by completing PS Form 3189, Request for Temporary Schedule Change for Personal Convenience. Postal Service employees may retain any court allowances and fees of $25 or less per day on days that court leave is authorized, but must remit to the Postal Service any amounts in excess of $25. Employees who perform court service outside of their basic workweek or outside of their scheduled tour of duty may retain the full amount of any jury or witness fees for this service.

Q89: How do I go about making a mutual trade with a letter carrier in another part of the United States?

     The applicable regulations and Contractual provisions for mutual exchanges between career letter carriers are found in the Employee and Labor Relations Manual (ELM) section 351.6 as well as in Article 12 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (JCAM pages 12-50 and 12-51). The failure to completely understand these specific requirements has led to serious and costly mistakes made by USPS management and also by some letter carriers in the past. It is very important to note that such exchanges are merely exchanges of positions in the employee complement of different USPS installations. Career letter carriers DO NOT exchange actual bid assignments or pay grades. This is because both vacated bid positions must be posted for bid and are thus made available to all eligible letter carriers in each of the respective installations. Such postings are made in the contractually required manner per the provisions of Article 41, section 1 of the Contract as well as any applicable Local Memorandum of Understanding (LMOU) provisions. Additionally, the officials in charge of each installation must approve the exchange. Certain types of employees are not permitted to exchange positions, such as career employees with non-career employees, bargaining unit employees with nonbargaining employees, and nonsupervisory employees with supervisory employees. Effective with a National level Memorandum of Understanding in September 2007, city carriers in grades CC-1 and CC-2 are considered to be in the same grade for purposes of mutual exchanges. Finally, most of the monthly issues of the Postal Record, the NALC?s official publication, have mutual exchange ads listed therein, usually near the back of the magazine.

Q90: I am on the Overtime Desired List. Management in my office has been giving overtime work to CCAs instead of utilizing letter carriers on the Overtime List. Is that proper?

     Yes, in nearly all instances it is contractually allowable for management to choose assign work to a CCA employee, even at the overtime rate, instead of assigning this work to an Overtime Desired List carrier. Always keep in mind that overtime work is NEVER guaranteed for any USPS employee. Signing an overtime list merely provides notification to management that an individual letter carrier desires to be considered for overtime work in the event that management determines this is necessary on any given workday. If management does choose to assign overtime work to career regular letter carriers, then they must follow the rules for assigning this work that are set forth in Article 8, section 5 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. These rules can be somewhat complex and have been developed over a period of several decades, but that is what your NALC station stewards are there for – to ensure that overtime work is assigned in the contractually prescribed manner. When is doubt, always request to see your steward, and do not rely on management to provide you accurate or complete information about overtime rules or any other work rules – or about anything else, for that matter. To reiterate, career regular letter carriers, including those that have signed an Overtime Desired List, only have a guarantee of eight hours of daily work or pay in lieu thereof. Career regulars are also guaranteed the schedule and the regular duties of their bid assignment. However, overtime work is not guaranteed in any manner for anyone, and management can normally chose to assign any letter carrier work to a CCA rather than utilizing a fulltime career employee from the Overtime Desired List.

Q91: My supervisor told me that he can make me work up to a half hour of overtime anytime he wants. I am not on any overtime desired list. How can this be?

     It can't be - because the supervisor is simply wrong. However, many supervisors (and even a few Union representatives) incorrectly believe that this is allowed because of the so-called "rule of reason." The "rule of reason" was first codified in a December 20, 1988 National Memorandum of Understanding between the NALC and the USPS and states that management would not be required to utilize an ODL carrier to provide assistance if doing so would require excessive travel time to provide the assistance. This situation typically occurs when a Non-ODL carrier calls from the field to report that he or she will be unable to complete their assignment in eight hours as previously instructed. Management would not be required to send auxiliary assistance out to the employee if, for example, doing so would require a twenty minutes of travel to do thirty minutes of work. In this specific situation management could instruct the employee to complete their assignment or to bring the unfinished portion back. However, under NO circumstances does this mean that management can schedule a Non-ODL employee in advance (i.e. in response to a 3996 submitted in the morning) to work any amount of overtime when available assistance can be scheduled at that time to perform the work instead. The "rule of reason" is simply that, and not an excuse to otherwise arbitrarily disregard the clearly defined provisions of Article 8 pertaining to the assignment of overtime work.

Q92: Can management discipline a Carrier for Failure to meet the “18 and 8” casing standards?

     The NALC’s position has always been, and remains, that the only basis for discipline is “unsatisfactory effort.”

Q93: Does management have fourteen days to address a complaint listed on Form 1767?

     Instructions on Form 1767 say management has not less than the end of the shift or twenty-four hours to address the complaint.

Q94: Can a letter carrier trade vacation weeks with another carrier in that office?

     No. In Branch 2184-represented offices, the exchanging of leave weeks is expressly prohibited by the provisions of our negotiated Local Memorandum of Understanding (LMU) with the Postal Service, specifically Item 4, section 4(c). This prohibition exists to prevent the circumvention and abuse of letter carrier craft seniority rights by virtue of inside “deals” made between individual letter carriers in a station. Additionally, nothing within the pertinent Contractual language in Article 10 of the USPS/ NALC Collective Bargaining Agreement or within the USPS leave rules defined in the Employee and Labor Relations Manual (ELM) subchapter 510 allows for or even makes mention of the trading of vacation weeks.
    Of overriding significance, the attainment of craft seniority and associated benefits is an essential and critical aspect of any union-represented work environment. As such, many of our nationally and locally negotiated leave rules have a specific seniority-related component to them. If the union negotiated or allowed leave provisions or local practices that could ultimately be used to circumvent the value of craft seniority – such as the trading of vacation weeks, it would be contrary to the entire purpose of seniority to begin with.

Q95: Management told me that I must list my mail volume in the "reasons" section of form 3996. Is that true?

     No, that is not true, with one limited exception. A series of National level interpretive grievance decisions have reiterated that the instructions for completion of PS form 3996 (found on the reverse side of a 3996) and also in the M-41 handbook, section 280, do not require a letter carrier to list volume figures on the form. However, if the request for assistance is related only to volume, management may require the carrier to note only the volume of mail remaining to be cased at the time the PS form 3996 is submitted, and may require that this volume be stated as a reasonable estimate in linear measurement terms. Otherwise, a carrier should list any and all reasons that he or she feels are pertinent to their request, including but not limited to full coverage ad mailings, excessive DPS, excessive parcels, weather, late leaving, or any other reason as determined by the carrier. On a related note, management does not ever have the right to determine what an allegedly "acceptable" reason is for requesting auxiliary assistance or overtime on form 3996. Letter carriers can and should list any reasons on a 3996 that we choose as long as they are related to our work that day.

Q96: I was the successful bidder on a vacant assignment but wanted to rescind my bid after the bids were opened. I was told that this could not be done. Why?

     The application of Article 41 provisions provides an answer to this question. A letter carrier can withdraw his or her bid on a vacant assignment any time before the bids are opened. However, once the bids have been opened a bid cannot be withdrawn and the successful bidder must assume the duties of the assignment on the posted date of placement. This is because the Contract (Article 41, section 1.C.4) clearly and unambiguously requires that “the successful bidder will work the Duty assignment as posted.” Of course, he or she can always choose to bid back on their previous assignment when it is posted.
    Some NALC Branches in various parts of the United States have negotiated into their Local Memorandums of Understanding (LMUs) a “tryout period” for the successful bidder and subsequent retreat rights if the successful bidder does not like the bid-for assignment. However, such “tryout periods” are wholly inconsistent with Article 41 provisions. Moreover, Branch 2184 long ago determined that attempting to negotiate this into our LMU would be counterproductive and would open up the bidding process to unnecessary game playing on the part of management and also by some letter carriers. A related issue involves the number of successful bids allowed within one Contractual timeframe.
    The number of successful bids allowed during the current (2006-2011) Collective Bargaining Agreement is seven (7). Bids to and from higher level (CC2) assignments or bids necessitated because of the application of the provisions of Article 41, section 3.O do not count toward the seven successful bid limitation. There is no limitation whatsoever on the number of unsuccessful bids made during a contract cycle.