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Q132: How is a Fulltime Letter Carrier’s new annual leave balance determined each year?
At the beginning of each leave year, fulltime regular career letter carriers are advanced the annual leave that they are expected to earn during that year. The new annual leave balances typically do not appear on paystubs until a few pay periods into the year, but the newly credited leave is actually available to use beginning on the first day of the new leave year. In accordance with the Employee and Labor Relations Manual (ELM) section 512.12, the new leave year begins on the first day of the first full pay period within the new calendar year. Leave year 2021 begins on Saturday, January 2, 2021. Thus, on that date the newly advanced annual leave for 2021 is available to use.
The amount of annual leave advanced and credited at the beginning of the year depends on the carrier’s leave earnings category, which is defined in the ELM section 512.311. Those in the first category (0-3 years of creditable service) receive four hours of annual leave per 80-hour pay period, or 104 hours for a 26 pay period year. Those in the second category (3-15 years of creditable service) receive six hours of annual leave per 80-hour pay period plus four additional hours in the final periods of the year, or 160 hours for a 26 pay period year. Those in the third category (15 or more years of creditable service) receive eight hours of annual leave per 80-hour pay period, or 208 hours for a 26-pay period year.
Career carriers with more than 15 years of creditable service will have two adjustments in their leave earnings category, at 3 years and again at 15 years. These adjustments nearly always occur sometime during the leave year, not coincident with the beginning of the leave year. When this occurs, as it does for nearly everyone, the leave advanced at the beginning of the year is prorated, with leave earned at the lower rate advanced for the number of pay periods it in effect, and the remaining pay periods of the year advanced at the higher rate, per the Employee and Labor Relations Manual (ELM) sections 512.311.b and 512.311.c.
An example is where a carrier attains three years of creditable service and goes from leave earnings category 1 to category 2 after the 20th pay period of the year (or about early October). The first 20 pay periods of annual leave for that year should be advanced at 4 hours per pay and the last 6 pay periods of annual leave for that should be advanced at 6 hours per pay. In this instance, the amount of advanced annual leave that year in January should be 116 hours. In January of the following year the same carrier should be advanced a full 160 hours because the entire leave year will be at the higher leave earnings category rate.
Q131: I had a serious illness and used up my sick leave balance, and management began taking my annual leave. I did not authorize them to do so. Can they do that?
In this situation, management did NOT have the right to unilaterally begin taking your annual leave and they should have first ascertained whether you wanted to use annual leave or leave without pay (LWOP). Postal regulations in the Employee and Labor Relations Manual (ELM) section 513.61 provide that “If sick leave is approved but the employee does not have sufficient sick leave to cover the absence, the difference is charged to annual leave or to LWOP at the employee’s option.”
This makes it clear that the employee makes this determination, not management.
Additionally, if an absence related to a USPS employee’s medical condition is covered by an approved and current Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) claim, it is always the choice of the employee concerning whether to use paid leave (sick or annual leave) or unpaid leave (leave without pay, or LWOP). The Employee and Labor Relations Manual (ELM) section 515.42 provides that “Absences that qualify as FMLA leave may be charged as annual leave, sick leave, continuation of pay, or leave without pay, or a combination of these. Leave is charged consistent with current leave policies and applicable collective bargaining agreements.”
Q130: My assignment is overburdened and I would like a special route inspection done. How do I go about doing this?
Special route inspections are conducted under the provisions of the M-39 Handbook (Management of Delivery Services), section 271.g. To qualify for a special route inspection, a letter carrier assignment must show at least 30 minutes of overtime and/or assistance on three of more days per week for a period of six consecutive weeks (where work performance is otherwise “satisfactory”), excluding the month of December. Of note, if the qualification period begins in November and continues into January, this is considered as a consecutive period even though December is omitted. Of further note, the qualification criteria is about the assignment and not the regular carrier assigned to it, and thus any days where .50 or more overtime and/or assistance occur during the six-week qualifying period are counted, regardless of who does the assignment.
The provisions of 271.g further state that when these qualification criteria have been met, the regular carrier assigned to the route shall, upon request, receive a special mail count and inspection to be completed within four weeks of the request. In accordance with the M-39 Handbook section 272, this mail count and inspection must be conducted in the same manner as a formal count and inspection that is over a period of one full week.
Management sometimes attempts to avoid doing special route inspections by subsequently claiming that work performance during the qualifying period was allegedly not “satisfactory.” However, such after-the-fact claims are typically bogus and undocumented, and management must provide actual evidence of any specific work deficiencies as well as evidence that these alleged deficiencies were brought to the attention of the carrier during the qualifying period. Computer generated workload numbers such as DOIS data are by themselves worthless for purposes of claiming alleged performance deficiencies. Finally, failure to conduct a special route inspection within four weeks of the request or failure to adjust the assignment within 52 days of the completion of a special inspection is grounds for entering into the grievance procedure.
Q129: I have always turned a letter in my case to let me know there is an SPR (small parcel or roll) or similar odd-sized piece of mail for that address. My supervisor told me that I could not do that anymore. Is this right?
The supervisor misinformed you. USPS Handbook M-41 (City Carrier Duties and Responsibilities) section 225.16 states that “A letter may be reversed in the letter separation for a customer receiving a parcel or odd-sized article that cannot be routed in the flat separations.” Thus, what the supervisor told you is incorrect. Given the significant increase in parcel volume of all sizes during the past few years, this is a particularly helpful work rule, especially with park and loop delivery.
To be clear, the specific intent of this M-41 provision is for small “SPR” type parcels (defined as smaller than a shoebox and two pounds or less) that the carrier would be carrying with them will making deliveries on a park and loop route or would be retrieving from a tray or similar location to deliver on a curb line (mounted) route. This work rule does NOT apply to larger parcels that require separate or dismount delivery.
This was clarified in a National level Step 4 grievance decision, M-00409 in the NALC Materials Reference System (MRS). Larger parcels are loaded directly onto postal vehicles on street time and should be delivered in accordance with the M-41 Handbook, section 323.3. If the supervisor persists with an erroneous position on this matter, request to see your steward.
Q128: Can a letter carrier holding a bid assignment make a deal with management to do another assignment on one of their regularly scheduled days?
Simply, NO. This is directly prohibited by the provisions of our Collective Bargaining Agreement, specifically Article 41, section 1.C.4. This reads “The successful bidder will work the duty assignment as posted. Unanticipated circumstances may require a temporary change of assignment. This same rule shall apply to Carrier Technician assignments, unless a local agreement provides otherwise.”
The mere desire of management and/or an individual letter carrier holding a bid assignment to make an inside deal for their own personal convenience is NOT ever considered to be an “unanticipated circumstance.” Nor do individual employees have the authority to selectively renegotiate applicable Contract language.
Without this clear contractual language, the bidding and assignment rights of all letter carriers would be essentially voided and it would turn the post office work floor into a “choose your assignment” circus each day. The provisions of our Labor Contract with the Postal Service are negotiated with the intent of benefitting as many letter carriers a possible in any given situation. In some instances that might not be personally convenient to an individual letter carrier, but that is not what a Union is about.
Of importance, letter carriers working outside of their regular schedules
such an ODL carriers being brought in on their nonscheduled days are not necessarily be entitled to work their regular bid assignments in some situations. The work rules for filling assignments in such situations have been negotiated by Branch 2184 and the Postal Service and are found in our Branch 2184 Local Memorandum of Understanding (LMOU).
Q127: I recently was converted from a CCA to a part time flexible (PTF) position. How is this different than a fulltime regular position?
Part Time Flexible (PTF) positions in the letter carrier craft are not new, and in fact prior to the January 2013 Das Contract Arbitration award, all letter carriers began their USPS career level employment as PTFs. This USPS career position was originally known as a “substitute carrier” but it was changed to “part time flexible” during the 1970s. PTFs are members of the Regular Work Force, per Article 7 of our Collective Bargaining Agreement. This is comprised of two categories of employees, full-time and part-time. Article 7, section A.2 of the Contract provides that “Part-Time:
Employees in this category shall be hired pursuant to such procedures as the Employer may establish and shall be assigned to regular schedules of less than forty (40) hours in a service week, or shall be available to work flexible hours as assigned by the Employer during the course of a service week.”
So, what does all of that mean? PTFS are career letter carriers with all the rights and benefits of all career carriers, including but not limited to: the career City Carrier pay scale, step increases, contractual wage increases including all COLA increases, the accrual of career craft seniority, earning both sick leave and annual leave, full participation in the Federal Employees Health Benefit (FEHB) plans, full participation in the Thrift Savings Plan including USPS matching contributions, employer paid life insurance, and career service credit toward the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS).
Additionally, although PTFs are not contractually guaranteed a schedule of 40 hours a week, they typically do work that many hours, and more. PTFs have priority scheduling consideration for straight time work hours over non-career employees. Specifically, Article 7, section 1.C.4 of the Contract states that “Over the course of a service week, the Employer will make every effort to ensure that qualified and available part-time flexible employees are utilized at the straight-time rate to prior to assigning such work to CCAS working in the same work location and on the same tour, providing that the reporting guarantee for CCA employees is met.”
This means that PTFS must be scheduled for work paid at the straight time rate up to 40 hours a week (but not necessarily 8 hours a day) prior to assigning this work to CCAs. Finally, PTFs also have the right to request hold downs (opts) on vacancies of 5 days or more in accordance with their career craft seniority, per the provisions of Article 41, section 2.B of the Contract. Such temporary vacancies are filled by career PTFS that have requested them in accordance with their seniority prior to CCAs that have requested them.
Q126: My supervisor told us that were required to notify management in the morning if I was going to have “undertime.” Is that correct?
No, that is not at all correct, and there is no contractual support for the supervisor’s stated position, which is outside management’s scope of authority. Specific Letter carrier reporting requirements are found in the M-41 Handbook, City Delivery Carriers Duties and Responsibilities, section 131.4. These state that “It is your responsibility to verbally inform management when you are of the opinion that you will be unable to case all mail distributed to the route, perform other required duties, and leave on schedule or when you will be unable to complete delivery of all mail “(131.41); and “Inform management of this well in advance of the scheduled leaving time and not later than immediately following the final receipt of mail. Management will instruct you what to do”(131.42).
Note that this language specifically requires letter carriers to notify management only when the carrier believes that they have more than 8 hours or work, not less.
Moreover, the contrived term “undertime” is not even a legitimate English word, so what does that even mean? Although management can assign additional work (up to eight total hours of work) where a letter carrier actually has less than eight hours of work on their assignment, the determination of this alleged situation is solely management’s responsibility, not that of a letter carrier.
Moreover, letter carriers do not have magic powers of prediction, and the nature of letter carrier work is such that countless unexpected and variable factors can and will impact actual delivery time each day. If management persists with such bogus reporting requirements, this should be immediately challenged through the grievance procedure.
Q125: I don’t trust my supervisor and want to record our conversations. Can I do that?
In a word, NO. This is directly prohibited by USPS regulations, and it could result in serious disciplinary action being issued if it is discovered. Specifically, the Employee and Labor Relations Manual (ELM), section 667.21 states that “During the course of 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.”
The above-cited regulation makes it clear that surreptitiously recording another person or people without their advance knowledge and consent while engaged in postal employment-related activities is strictly prohibited. The reference to the use “of any electronic, mechanical, or other device” makes it clear that video or other forms of recording without the consent of all parties is also prohibited.
Finally, this prohibition does not apply to postal inspectors or Office of Inspector General (OIG) investigators while acting in the course of their official duties. However, it does otherwise apply to USPS supervisory and management employees. In summary, do NOT under ANY circumstances record, make a video, or otherwise secretly monitor or intercept any conversation or activity while you are engaged in postal employment. All carriers are encouraged to make and keep their own notes and records such as a daily journal about their interactions with management and management’s conduct in general. This should be done on the carrier’s own time, such as lunch, breaks, or while off the clock.
Q124: My supervisor told me that my street times were not meeting standards. What does that mean?
Simply put, it means NOTHING. All work performed by letter carriers delivering mail and parcels takes whatever time is necessary to efficiently but safely to complete. Because of this, there are NO established or standardized time values for any letter carrier delivery function.
Management can and does use computer programs such as “DOIS” to make estimates of what they think is the time necessary to perform letter carrier work. However, these time estimates should NEVER be confused or conflated with a mandate that all work must
be completed within a specific time frame. Management is perfectly happy if they can convince a letter carrier to believe otherwise, and they are sometimes successful, especially with newer letter carriers.
A National level grievance settlement between the USPS and the NALC (M-01769) provides that “Projections are not the sole determinant of a carrier’s leaving or return time, or daily workload. The use of any management created system or tool that calculates a workload projection does not change the letter carrier’s reporting requirements outlined in section 131.4 of Handbook M-41, the supervisor’s scheduling responsibilities outlined in section 122 of Handbook M-39, or the letter carrier’s and supervisor’s responsibilities outlined in section 28 of Handbook M-41.”
This is where reporting requirements just referenced above come in, beginning with the completion and submission of PS Form 3996 whenever a carrier believes that all assigned work cannot be performed within eight hours or the time authorized. Management should then provide instructions what to do. If, after leaving for the street a carrier becomes aware that he/she will not complete all assigned work within the time previously authorized, then contact management for further instructions. As discussed in the previous Contract Corner question, you are NOT required to use your personal cell phone for this purpose or for any other work-related matter. Always be sure to follow the last instruction you are given.
In summary, letter carrier delivery duties should be performed conscientiously but with safety and situational awareness in mind at ALL times. The actual time necessary to perform any specific delivery function can never be determined in advance. Thus, there are NO “street standards.” It always takes whatever it takes, nothing more and nothing less.
Q123: My supervisor instructed me that I must use my cell phone to call in for instructions while I am working. Is this proper?
No, that is an improper instruction. USPS employees are not required under any circumstances to use their personal phones for any employment related business.
Your phone is your personal property and its use should always be limited to your own private business. The Postal Service does not pay your phone bill. If management wants you to use a phone for purposes of receiving work-related instructions, they should provide you with a phone – at their expense. Article 41, section 3.E. of the Collective Bargaining Agreement provides 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.” Moreover, management has other ways of communicating with letter carriers that are out delivering mail, such as with the Mobile Delivery Devices (scanners). Do keep in mind that it is a letter carrier’s responsibility to notify management if they will need more time than previously authorized to complete all assigned duties. However, a letter carrier is not required to use their personal cell phone for this purpose and should never do so. If management persists with an instruction to use your personal phone for communicating with them, immediately request to see your steward.
Q122: The postal vehicle assigned to my route is unsafe to drive and needs repairs. My supervisor said not to write the vehicle up to just tell the VOMA about it. Is that the right thing to do?
No, the supervisor’s instructions in this regard were improper. USPS Handbook M-41, City Delivery Carriers Duties and Responsibilities, section 842.1 states that “Driver must report all mechanical defects or failures and major body damage on Form 4565, Vehicle Repair Tag, as soon as noted, and turn in the completed form to a dispatcher or manager.” A mere verbal notification is insufficient for this purpose.
It is likely that the supervisor’s only concern in this situation was to save a minute or two by not having the carrier complete a form 4565. However, management’s obsessive quest to save even minimal amounts of time does not supersede the work rule requirements found in the M-41 Handbook. Always complete Form 4565 for any notification of the need for vehicle repairs or service. If instructed not to do so, comply with the instruction and see your steward.
Related to the issue discussed above is the paramount importance of the vehicle inspection that is always to be conducted either at the beginning or during the morning office portion of the letter carrier workday. Vehicle inspections are NOT optional – this is a mandatory daily requirement of the letter carrier job.
The M-41 Handbook, section 832.1, mandates that the vehicle must be inspected by using Notice 76 - Expanded Vehicle Safety Check. Unfortunately, management is typically more interested in using as little office time as possible for any purpose. However, under NO circumstances should any letter carrier forego a complete inspection of the vehicle assigned to them that day. For CCAs and others who may not be assigned to a route or that report later in the morning, you should immediately do a vehicle inspection after being assigned the vehicle you are to use for that day. Most of all, any letter carrier that is instructed to forgo inspecting their vehicle or is even discouraged from doing so should immediately request to see their steward.
Q121: I wanted to cancel a week of scheduled annual leave but still wanted leave for two of the days during that week. Can I just cancel the days I don’t want?
No, in Branch 2184-represented offices that cannot be done, except under one very specific and uncommon circumstance. In accordance with the Branch 2184 Local Memorandum of Understanding (LMOU), Item 4, section 5(a), “Vacations selected in units of five days must be canceled in units of five days.”
The intent of this language is to prevent letter carriers from selecting entire weeks of leave in order to ensure that they will be off on a specific day or days within these weeks, and with the advance intent of later canceling all but the days that they actually wanted. This unfairly fills weekly vacation slots with the names of employees that really don’t want those weeks, while at the same time making them unavailable to those with less seniority that will subsequently be making their own leave selections.
The one exception to this rule is where a letter carrier does not have enough annual leave left to cover all of a previously scheduled vacation week. In this instance, management can require that the carrier cancel the amount of leave that he or she is short but they cannot require that the carrier cancel the entire week if some annual leave remains in his/ her balance. In this instance the carrier determines which day or days are canceled, which must be consecutive if more than one day is canceled.
Requests for individual days of annual leave can be made on PS form 3971 after the initial round of vacation selections has been completed, which should be no later than January 15 each year. This can be done up to six weeks in advance of the week which has the day or days desired and such requests are approved on a first-come, first-served basis. Branch 2184’s negotiated local leave rules which govern this process are also found in our LMOU Item 4, section 7 and in Item 12, section 2. Finally, the entire Branch 2184 Local Memorandum of Understanding, which deals with all of our locally negotiated leave rules as well as other matters such as holiday schedules, can be found on our Branch’s website at NALC2184.org
Q120: How does the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) work?
The United States Postal Service has an active Employee Assistance Program (EAP), which can be found in Article 35 of our Collective Bargaining Agreement. This affirms the joint support of the Postal Service and Postal Unions for a national program of employee counseling for alcohol or drug abuse as well as for other types of family or personal problems. The EAP provides free confidential counseling to all postal employees and their family members by trained outside professionals.
EAP Counselor services are available to letter carriers, through voluntary self-referrals, to letter carriers and their family members. A management official may also refer an employee to EAP. However, participation is entirely voluntary. Article
35, section 1 of the Contract also provides that “an employee’s voluntary participation in EAP for assistance with alcohol and/or drug abuse will be considered favorably in disciplinary proceedings.”
Currently the national contact number for self -referrals is 1-800-EAP4YOU, or 1 800-327-4968. Additional information is also available at the website www.eap4you.com.
Q119: Do Letter Carriers get wash up time after returning from the Street?
All letter carriers working in Branch 2184 represented offices have up to 5 minutes for wash up time after returning from the street. The wash up time should be taken in addition to the time needed to perform your p.m. office duties after clocking back in from the street and before ending your tour for the day. Specifically, Branch 2184 has negotiated the following language into our Local Memorandum of Understanding (LMOU), Item #1, Wash-Up Periods: “All letter carriers will be granted up to 5 minutes daily for washing up after performing dirty work or incident to personal needs.”
It is inherent to letter carrier work that all delivery duties constitute “dirty work,” given the requirements of the job working outdoors and handling thousands of pieces of mail on a daily basis.
On a related note, management frequently tries to push an unsupported myth that letter carriers only have “five minutes” to complete all duties when returning from the street. However, there is no such work rule in our Contract or in any USPS Handbook of Manual, any and there never has been. Letter carrier office duties when returning from the street are listed in the M-41 Handbook, chapter 4, and these duties should take as long as necessary to complete, in addition to the wash up time discussed above.
Q118: I needed additional time to finish my route. Management told me to continue but that it was “not authorized.” What does that mean?
In short, it means nothing. This is a classic example of management doublespeak, where letter carriers are deliberately given contradictory or confusing instructions. Letter carriers are required to report their inability to complete all assigned duties within the time authorized, per the provisions of the M-41 Handbook, section 131. This situation often manifests itself when a letter carrier determines that he or she will need additional time to complete their assignment and calls or sends a message for instructions.
In some instances, a duplicitous supervisor will attempt to intimidate the carrier by giving deliberately conflicting instructions or by responding that the carrier is to continue but the time is supposedly not “authorized.” However, once a letter carrier has been instructed to continue to working or to finish their assignment, the time necessary to do is implicitly authorized. This was affirmed in a National Level Step 4 grievance decision (M-00326 from the NALC Materials Reference System) which states, in part “…Although there was no expressed authorization to complete the delivery of mail on an overtime basis, the permission would be inherent in the authorization to continue delivery
after the grievants were unable to complete the routes.”
If management attempts to claim that the time needed to perform work that they specifically instructed you to complete is allegedly “unauthorized,” or attempts to utilize Form 1017-B (USPS Unauthorized Overtime Record) in this situation, immediately request to meet with your steward for purposes of investigating and initiating a grievance. Most of all, don’t allow management’s game playing to affect your daily work. Take ownership of your job by coming to work every day and performing your duties in a safe and efficient manner, taking all the necessary time to do so, including a full 30 minute lunch and two 10-minute breaks, as well as taking additional breaks for personal needs such as comfort stops when necessary.
Q117: What is Night Differential Pay and how does it work?
Night Shift Differential pay is defined in Article 8, section 7 of the NALC/USPS Collective Bargaining Agreement as follows: “For time worked between the hours of 6:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m., a career employee shall be paid additional compensation at the applicable flat rate dollar amount at each pay grade and step in accordance with Appendix A attached hereto.” Appendix A is found in our Contract books immediately following the final numbered Article (Article 43) of the Contract. Additionally, despite the “career employee” language above, Night Shift Differential pay also applies to work performed by City Carrier Assistants (CCAs).
There are two Night Differential rate tables in Appendix A; the first (Table three) applies to fulltime regular and part time flexible career employees. For fulltime regular carriers in pay Table 1 (career appointment date prior to January 12, 2013) or pay Table 2 (career appointment date on or after January 12, 2013) of the City Carrier pay schedules, the additional flat hourly rate in the current (2016-2019) Contract ranges from $1.00 to $1.63 per hour, depending on the pay Table and step. For part time flexible carriers, the additional flat hourly rate in the current (2016-2019) Contract ranges from $1.23 to $1.69, depending on step. For CCAs, the additional flat hourly rate in the current (2016-2019) Contract is $1.23.
Finally, the payment of the flat hourly rate Night Shift Differential applies regardless of pay status during an employee’s scheduled work hours. Thus, an employee working while in an overtime or penalty overtime status during the hours of 6:00 p.m. through 6:00 a.m. with have the flat rate hourly Night Shift Differential pay added to their pay. Although the language of Article 8, section 4.F in our Contract provides that premium pay rates cannot be “pyramided” and that only the higher rate applies, Night Shift Differential pay is not considered as a premium.
Q116: Management did an investigative interview with me. My steward was there but management did not allow the steward to speak or to advise me. Can they do that?
Management’s conduct in this situation violated your Weingarten Rights
as well as the steward’s rights to fully represent you during an investigative interview. Specifically, Federal Labor Law, known as the Weingarten rule, gives each employee the right to representation during any investigative interview which he or she reasonably believes may lead to discipline.
A union representative in this situation is just that - a representative, not just a witness to the proceedings.
The determination of “reasonably believes” is made by the employee, not by management. Sometimes management will directly state that the interview could lead to discipline. In other situations, it is the nature of the questioning itself that often leads an employee to have a reasonable belief of potential disciplinary action.
Additionally, although an employee does not have Weingarten Rights
during an official discussion, management will sometimes deviously attempt to mask an investigative interview under the guise of an alleged official discussion. The key is the content and direction of a so-called “official discussion.” If management begins asking questions of an interrogative nature instead of discussing an alleged minor offense with an employee, it is no longer an official discussion but instead has actually become an investigatory interview, and the employee should immediately request union representation at that time. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck…
Be aware that Weingarten Rights
are NOT automatic. The employee must actually request representation in an investigative interview, and management is not required to inform them of this right. Once exercised, the steward has the right to fully participate in the interview process. Any attempt by management to refuse to allow the steward to speak or otherwise restrict the role of the steward to that of a passive observer violates the employee’s Weingarten Rights. Employees also have the right under Weingarten to a pre-interview consultation with a steward.
Finally, although the Employee and Labor Relations Manual (ELM) Section 665.3 requires all postal employees to cooperate with investigations, a letter carrier still has the right under Weingarten
to have a steward present before answering questions in this situation. The carrier should respond that he or she will answer questions once a steward is provided.
Q115: Management in my office said that they could tell us when and where we could have lunch on our routes. Can they do that?
No, management misinformed you. In accordance with the M-41 Handbook, City Carriers Duties and Responsibilities, section 251.6 as well as Exhibit 251, the regular carrier enters this information on Form 1564-A (Delivery Instructions) which should be found in the route book for every individual letter carrier assignment. The T-6 carrier for the assignment also enters this information for the days that he or she is assigned to the route.
Both the regular carrier on an assignment as well as the T-6 carrier for that assignment can choose up to three separate locations for lunch, as well as choosing the times when they will be leaving the route for lunch.
Although management does have final approval of these choices, they are the carrier’s choices to make to begin with. Additionally, management’s arbitrary disapproval of a reasonable lunch location or time chosen by a letter carrier is subject to the grievance procedure.
Regarding the time at which lunch is taken, the Employee and Labor Relations Manual (ELM), section 432.33, provides that except in emergency situations an employee cannot be required to work more than six continuous hours without a meal or a rest break of at least a half hour. Unfortunately, this regulation is commonly misconstrued as meaning that an employee must take their lunch within six hours of the start of their tour. However, that is not the case; it only means that an employee cannot be required to work beyond six hours without a lunch.
An employee can choose to schedule their 30-minute lunch period at a later time.
Finally, all letter carriers should be aware that lunch begins at the point where the carrier leaves their line of travel on their assignment, and it ends when the employee returns to this point of travel. Thus, travel time to and from a chosen lunch location counts toward the 30-minute lunch allowance, and this should be considered when choosing your three authorized lunch locations.
Q114: I have mounted (curbline) deliveries on my route. Some of the boxes are often blocked by cars or garbage cans. Do I have to dismount and walk to the boxes?
In most instances, the answer is YES, you do. There is a long-established myth that letter carriers do not have to deliver mail to boxes that are blocked, a myth that has absolutely no basis or factual support. Unless there is clearly existing and demonstrable safety risk to the letter carrier, an obstructed mailbox should always be serviced by the letter carrier delivering that street or location. We are in the business of delivering mail, not finding reasons to withhold delivery.
Specifically, the Postal Operations Manual (POM), section 632.14 states that “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 box, the carrier normally dismounts to make delivery. If the carrier consistently experiences a problem in serving curbline boxes and where the customer is able to control on-street parking in front of his or her mailbox but does not take corrective action after being notified, the postmaster may, with the approval of the district manager, withdraw delivery service.”
The above language makes it clear that is a carrier’s responsibility to dismount to deliver mail to a blocked curbline box. To do so, safely park the postal vehicle out of the line of traffic, turn it off, unfasten your seatbelt, take the keys and exit the vehicle and then carefully walk the mail to the box. If the distance is more than several steps, it is advisable to also close and lock the vehicle door. Some might ask “but won’t this take a lot more time?” Of course, it will take more time. What’s your hurry, any-way?
Q113: I had a serious illness and used up my sick leave balance, and management began taking my annual leave. I did not authorize them to do so. Can they do that?
In this situation, management did NOT have the right to unilaterally begin taking your annual leave. Postal Service leave regulations found in the Employee and Labor Relations Manual (ELM), section 513.61, provide that “if sick leave is approved but the employee does not have sufficient sick leave to cover the absence the difference is charged to annual leave or LWOP at the employee’s option.”
This means that instead of automatically using the employee’s annual leave once their sick leave balance is exhausted, management should as-certain whether the employee instead wants the balance of the absence charged to leave without pay (LWOP).
Of significance, this is one of several situations where the use of LWOP is at the employee’s discretion, not management’s discretion. Unfortunately, all too often it is belatedly discovered that management just went ahead and took the employee’s annual leave even without being authorized to do so. Additionally, absences for many if not most serious illnesses and off the job injuries for letter carriers (or that are due to the need to care for an eligible family member) will also qualify for protection under the provisions of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Eligibility for FMLA protection begins after one year of USPS employment as well as having 1250 or more work hours during the 12 preceding months.
Once an absence has been designated as FMLA-protected, the employee alone determines the type(s) of leave that they choose to use for the absence, per USPS leave provisions (ELM 515.42). For their own FMLA qualifying illness or off the job injury, a career letter carrier can use sick leave, annual leave, or LWOP, or any combination thereof. For an absence to care for a qualifying family member, a career letter carrier can use annual leave or LWOP, as well up to 80 hours of sick leave for dependent care.
Q112: How are Union Stewards Chosen?
Article 17, Section 1 of our Collective Bargaining Agreement provides that stewards “may be designated for the purpose of investigating, presenting, and adjusting grievances.” In actuality a steward’s work typically encompasses much more than developing and processing grievances. A steward is the union’s authorized work floor representative, a position that requires many different functions and roles.
Depending on a Branch’s internal procedures as established through their Bylaws, NALC stewards are either elected by the membership or appointed by the Branch President. In Branch 2184 our stewards are normally elected by the active members in the USPS Station where they work. Stewards are nominated and elected every three years at the same time as Branch 2184 officers and convention delegates. Unfilled or vacant steward positions in Branch 2184 offices that occur between election cycles can be filled by the appointments made by the Branch President. The Branch President may also appoint alternate stewards that are empowered to act in the absence or unavailability of regular stewards.
Any active NALC member in a Branch-2184 represented station that meets the criteria established in the NALC Constitution (Article 5, section 2) is eligible for nomination for a steward position in that station. The criteria are straightforward, namely that a letter carrier be an active member in good standing and that during the previous two years he or she has not voluntarily or otherwise held, accepted, or applied for a supervisory position in the Postal Service for any period of time (even a fraction of one day). Those that held or applied for supervisory status are ineligible to run for or to hold any union office or other position for a period of two (2) years after termination of this status. Upon nomination, every candidate for any union position must verify that he or she has not served in or applied for a supervisory position for 24 months prior to nomination.
Finally, those interested in becoming stewards in Branch 2184 should contact the Branch office for additional information about the duties and responsibilities of the steward position. Our stewards are provided with extensive resources and training, and this is an ongoing process even for experienced stewards.
Q111: I lost my Employee ID Badge and my postmaster said that I had to give them $15 before I could get a replacement badge. Is that the correct procedure?
No, that is NOT the correct procedure. Although management, per the provisions of the Administrative support Manual (ASM) section 277.72 can charge an employee up to $15 to replace a lost or stolen employee ID badge, it is very much improper to require any employee to immediately pay this money to a local management representative as a condition of receiving a replacement badge. Such a practice amounts to an unethical “shakedown” of the employee and it is also directly contrary to the contractually established procedures for collecting employee debts.
Article 28 of our Collective Bargaining Agreement states that “In advance of any money demand upon an employee for any reason, the employee must be informed in writing and the demand must include the reasons therefor.” As such, the proper procedure for collecting ANY employee debt is a formal Letter of Demand, which itself is subject to the grievance procedure, per Article 28, section 4. Additionally, Article 41, section 3.E. of our Contract states that “When the Employer requires use of certain supply items for the proper performance of a carrier’s functions, such items will be supplied by the employer. Employee ID badges are clearly necessary for the proper performance of a carrier’s functions.
Thus, if an employee loses an ID badge, he/ she should promptly notify management, who in turn should promptly issue a replacement badge. After issuing the replacement badge, management can then choose to issue a Letter of Demand to the employee for up to $15 for the cost of the replacement badge. However, under NO circumstances should an employee ever be providing cash or checks directly to management in response to an alleged debt without first having been provided with a Letter of Demand as required by Article 28 of the Contract.
Finally, although management can charge an employee up to $15 through the issuance of a Letter of Demand to replace a lost or stolen employee ID badge, an employee should never be charged to replace a worn or malfunctioning badge. Any attempt to do so should be challenged with a grievance.
Q110: I signed the Overtime Desired List but management keeps giving my overtime to CCAs. Can they do that?
In nearly all situations the answer is “yes,” management can choose to first assign this work to a CCA instead of utilizing a letter carrier on the Overtime Desired List. Signing the Regular or the Work Assignment Overtime Desired List notifies management of a career letter carrier’s desire to work overtime when management has determined that such work will be performed in an overtime status by a career USPS employee. However, management has the right to assign any letter carrier work to CCA, up to 11.5 work hours a day (12 hours with lunch), seven days a week, prior to assigning this work as overtime to a career USPS letter carrier. Always keep in mind that it is not “your” overtime to begin with. No USPS employee has any particular entitlement to overtime work.
When management chooses to assign work as overtime to a career USPS employee, they must do so in a manner that is consistent with the work rules negotiated in Article 8 of our Collective Bargaining Agreement. Management’s inability or unwillingness to properly assign overtime work is historically the genesis of more grievances than any other subject. However, it remains management’s initial determination whether work will even be assigned as overtime to a career employee.
Also keep in mind that management also has other options instead of assigning work as overtime to a career letter carrier. This includes (but is not limited to) the curtailment of mail, utilizing light and/or limited duty carriers within their medical restrictions, and where legitimate “undertime” exists, assigning additional work to career letter carriers, up to eight total hours of daily work. In summary, management has several potential options for the assignment of work, including the use of CCAs, prior to assigning this work to a carrier on the Overtime Desired List. If you feel that your contractual rights have been violated in this regard, ask to meet with your steward, who will investigate the facts and circumstances of the situation.
Q109: Management told me that I had to take one of my ten-minute breaks in the morning and one during the afternoon. Is that correct?
No, you were misinformed. The two paid letter carrier breaks are covered by the provisions of the M-39 Handbook (Management of Delivery Services) section 242.341. The ten-minute breaks in their present form were first negotiated with the USPS in the 1978-1981 Contract cycle and they were subsequently incorporated into the USPS work rules that appear in the M-39 Handbook. Although the local union can choose to have one of the breaks scheduled in the office during the morning, Branch 2184 has always chosen to have both breaks taken during the street time portion of letter carrier assignments. This maximizes the available break time during the physically demanding portion of the letter carrier workday.
Letter carriers have the option to take both of their street breaks in the morning or both in the afternoon, or one of each, subject only to the following conditions: The breaks cannot be combined with each other and they cannot be combined with the 30- minute lunch period. However, unlike lunch, the 10-minute breaks are paid time that is incorporated into letter carrier route schedules. Breaks can also be taken on the line of travel directly to or from the post office. Important: the 10-minute breaks are in addition to and entirely separate from comfort stops such as restroom breaks and other personal service needs.
The intent of the breaks is to have an actual break from working, not using this time for other matters such as restroom breaks that should be separately incorporated into a letter carrier’s daily street time.
M-39 Handbook provisions state that the approximate locations (but not the times) of the street breaks should be listed on PS Form 1564-A, Delivery Instructions, which is normally found in the route book for each assignment. During recent years the information on forms 1564-A in some of our Branch 2184-represented stations has become quite outdated because of route adjustments and letter carriers bidding onto other assignments. Updating route book information has apparently not been a priority with postal management for many years. With this in mind, remember that it is the regular carrier currently assigned to a route
that solely determines his or her approximate break locations. Likewise, the T-6 carrier for that assignment separately determines his or her approximate break locations.
Q108: My supervisor told me that if I called in sick the day before or after a holiday that I would not get paid for the holiday. Is that correct?
No, that is NOT correct, and management in many Branch 2184-represented offices as well as elsewhere continues to consistently misinform letter carriers about this subject. Eligibility for holiday pay for fulltime career employees is defined by the provisions of Article 11, section 2 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement and in 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 an employee need only be in a pay status – which is defined as work, annual leave, or sick leave, during either their last scheduled hour before OR their first scheduled hour after the holiday in order to receive holiday pay. In the situation described by the question above, as long as the carrier worked or had any form of paid leave on their last scheduled day before the holiday - OR the carrier either worked or received any form of paid leave on the first scheduled day after the holiday, the eligibility criteria have been met for holiday pay.
An exception to this general rule occurs in the employee is in an extended leave without pay (LWOP) status. In this situation, paid leave for the last scheduled hour before or first scheduled hour after the holiday is not approved for the purpose of qualifying the employee for holiday pay, per the Employee and Labor Relations Manual (ELM) section 434.421.
Of additional note, CCAs are now paid for six holidays (New Years, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas). Their criteria to be eligible for holiday pay on any of these six holidays is same as career letter carriers, which is merely to be in a pay status on either their last scheduled hour before the holiday OR their first scheduled hour after the holiday, no matter when that might be.
Q107: I called in sick for one day and was told that I had to provide medical documentation of my absence. Does management have the right to do this?
The short answer is yes, management "can" request documentation for a single day absence. However, there is much more to consider with this issue, and as is usually the case, the devil is in the details.
The Employee and Labor Relations Manual (ELM) section 513.361 states, in part: "For periods of absence of 3 days or less, supervisors may accept the employee's statement explaining the absence. Medical documentation or other acceptable evidence of incapacity for work or need to care for a family member is required only when the employee is on restricted sick leave or when the supervisor deems documentation desirable for the protection of the interests of the Postal Service."
This language simply means that normally an employee sick leave absence of 3 scheduled workdays or less does NOT require documentation. However, the last portion of that language allows for two exceptions. "Restricted Sick Leave" is an administrative action that management can take under the provisions of the ELM 513.391. However, to legitimately place an employee on restricted sick leave, management must first follow a sequence of attendance reviews and discussions that takes at least 9 months to complete. So instead, management typically relies on the "or when the supervisor deems documentation desirable for the protection of the interests of the Postal Service" language.
This is precisely what management's internal "deems desirable" program was created to do, and is why they can request documentation even of a single-day absence. The real purpose of such demands is to retaliate against an already ill employee by inconveniencing them to the extent possible, with the not so subtle intent of trying to get them to come into work anyway.
So what should a letter carrier in this situation do? If notified by management that you have been placed on a "deems desirable" list," merely respond that you intend to initiate a grievance anytime that you are required to provide documentation of a sick leave absence of 3 work days or less. Then follow up, the first time and every time. The most effective response to arbitrary medical documentation demands to consistently make management pay for deliberately inconveniencing you while you or a family member is ill.
Customary grievance remedy in such situations is for payment for any out-of-pocket expenses incurred by complying with the documentation demand, such as copays and mileage. Other forn1(s) of remedy might also be appropriate. Additionally, grievance processing and grievance meeting time also costs management work hours and expenses. In summary, management "can" require documentation of a short term absence. However, there is plenty that you can do and should do about it in response.
Q106: There are Documents in my Personnel Folder (eOPF) that should not be there. How do I get them removed?
The Official Personnel Folder, or OPF, documents the employment history of individuals employed by the federal government. An OPF is established and maintained for each Postal Service employee regardless of appointment type or duration. In 2008, the Postal Service converted all Official Personnel Folders for active employees from paper to electronic Official personnel Folders (eOPF). A Postal Service employee's eOPF can only be accessed by the employee (from LiteBlue with your Employee Identification Number and PIN) and by certain Postal Service administrative personnel in the performance of their duties.
To add or remove documents from your eOPF, a request in made in writing on PS Form 8043. The PS 8043 is readily accessible online, including fillable, printable versions. To add documents (for example a DD 214 for military service), they should be attached to the PS 8043 and the request mailed or delivered to the USPS district personnel (HR) office. To remove documents, the PS 8043 should specify exactly which document(s) you want removed, and the form should then be mailed of delivered to the USPS district personnel (HR) office. Of note, if mailing a PS 8043 to the USPS personnel office, always make copies of everything before mailing it and request delivery confirmation or other proof of delivery.
By far the most common reason for requesting the removal of documents from an employee's eOPF is because of expunged or expired disciplinary actions. A letter carrier should never expect that management will do this on their own, even when a grievance decision or other reason warrants the removal of the disciplinary action from the eOPF. Because discipline can only be removed from an employee's eOPF in accordance with Collective Bargaining Agreements (specifically, Article 15 of the Contract and our negotiated grievance procedure), it is essential that EVERY letter carrier routinely monitor their eOPF and scrutinize its contents carefully. Notify your steward immediately if management fails or refuses to remove disciplinary actions as required from your eOPF after being requested to do so by use of the PS 8043.
Q105: How Does the Leave Sharing Program work?
The Postal Service has negotiated a Leave Sharing program with its unions under which career postal employees are able to donate annual leave from their earned annual leave account to another career postal employee, within the same geographic area serviced by a postal district. In addition, career postal employees may donate annual leave to other family members that are career postal employees without restriction as to geographic location. Eligible family members include son or daughter, parent, and spouse as defined in Employee and Labor Relations Manual (ELM) Section 515.2.
To be eligible to receive donated leave, a career employee (a) must be incapacitated for available postal duties due to serious personal health conditions or pregnancy and (b) must be known or expected to miss at least 40 more hours from work than his or her own annual leave and/or sick leave balance (s), as applicable, will cover, and (c) must have his or her absence approved pursuant to standard attendance policies. Donated leave may be used to cover the 40 hours of leave without pay (L WOP) required to be eligible for leave sharing.
Single donations must be of 8 or more whole hours and may not exceed half of the amount of annual leave earned each year based on the leave earnings category of the donor at the time of donation. Sick leave, unearned annual leave, and annual leave hours subject to forfeiture (leave in excess of the maximum carryover - 440 hours, which the employee would not be permitted to use before the end of the leave year), may not be donated. Employees may not donate leave to their immediate supervisors.
For purposes other than pay and legally required payroll deductions, employees using donated leave will be subject to regulations applicable to employees in LWOP status and will not earn any type of leave while using donated leave. Donated leave may be carried over from one leave year to the next without limitation. Donated leave not actually used remains in the recipient's account (i.e., is not restored to donors). Such residual donated leave at any time may be applied against negative leave balances caused by medical issues. At separation, any remaining donated leave balance will be paid in a lump sum.
Q104: How is a Fulltime Career Letter Carrier's new annual leave balance determined each year?
At the beginning of each leave year, fulltime regular career letter carriers are advanced and credited with the annual leave that they are expected to earn during that year. These new annual leave balances typically do not appear on paystubs until a few pay periods into the year. However, the newly credited leave is actually available to use beginning on the first day of the new leave year. Also keep in mind that the USPS pay year and the USPS leave year always begin on different dates.
USPS pay year 2019 begins on Saturday, December 22, 2018, which is the first day of pay period 1, week 1, 2019. However, in accordance with the Employee and Labor Relations Manual (ELM) section 512.12, the new USPS leave year
always begins on the first day of the first full pay period that is entirely within the new calendar yea. As such, USPS leave year 2019 begins on Saturday, January 5, 2019, which is the first day pf pay period 2, week 1, 2019. Again, it is on this date that the newly advanced and credited annual leave for fulltime career letter carriers for 2019 will become fully available to use.
The amount of annual leave advanced and credited at the beginning of the year depends on a career letter carrier's leave earnings category, which is defined in the ELM section 512.311. Those in the first category (0-3 years of creditable service) receive four hours of annual leave per 80-hour pay period, or 104 hours for a 26 pay period year. Those in the second category (3-15 years of creditable service) receive six hours of annual leave per 80-hour pay period plus four additional hours in the final pay period of the year, or 160 hours for a 26 pay period year. Those in the third category (15 or more years of creditable service) receive eight hours of annual leave per pay period, or 208 hours for a 26 pay period leave year.
"Creditable service" for Postal Service employees also includes previous military service as well as Federal civilian service. When the threshold for a higher leave earnings category (from category I to category 2 or category 2 to category 3) will be reached during the course of a calendar year, the annual leave credited at the beginning of the year will reflect this, with the higher amount prorated and added for the number of pay periods it is expected to be earned.
Letter carriers can carry over up to 440 hours (11 weeks) of unused annual leave from the previous year, and their newly credited leave is added to this to determine the new annual leave balance. However, letter carriers should always keep in mind that the newly credited leave is actually earned on a pay period by pay period basis. Because of this, significant amounts of leave without pay (L WOP) can sometimes be problematic for those that have used much of their annual leave earlier in the year. For every 80 hours of L WOP used (for any reason) a career employee's annual leave balance is reduced by one pay period's worth of annual leave - either four, six, or eight hours.
Q103: I have a park and loop route and was told by my supervisor that I must finger the mail between all my deliveries. Is that true?
Not always, because the specific circumstances of delivery must always be taken into account. The M-41 Handbook (City Delivery Carriers Duties and Responsibilities), section 321.5 states "Finger mail between delivery stops placing it in order of delivery (see section 133.2)." But wait, not so fast. What does that referenced section 133.2 say? "Do NOT finger mail when driving, or when walking up or down steps or curbs, when crossing streets, or at any time it would create a safety hazard to the carriers or to the public."
When these two M-41 provisions are read together, as they must be, it simply means the requirement to finger mail between deliveries ONLY applies when a carrier is not driving, is not going up or down steps or stepping off of curbs, is not crossing streets - or ANY other time that the carrier (not management) determines that it would be unsafe to do so.
In other words, during much of the time when letter carriers are performing delivery duties, they are not required to finger the mail. Additional examples of situations where fingering mail could be unsafe are whenever a letter carrier is crossing a lawn (uneven surfaces, sprinkler heads and other objects, animal waste), or when walking on snowy or icy surfaces and their full attention to conditions is necessary.
Finally, to reiterate a VERY important USPS safety rule (from the M-41 Handbook, section 812.4): Under NO circumstances should a letter carrier EVER be touching or even looking at the mail when their postal vehicle is in motion.
This applies to ALL letter carriers in all situations, and especially to those doing curbline (mounted) delivery. When driving and especially when performing mounted deliveries, your entire attention while the vehicle is in motion must only be on traffic and the environment surrounding the vehicle.
This means having full awareness and having both hands available to immediately respond to unexpected hazards. Under NO circumstances should you ever hold mail in your hands, place it on your lap, or have anything whatsoever to with it until your vehicle is completely stopped at your next delivery or park point.
Q102: My postmaster said that there is an Article in the Contract called “Management Rights” which gives them to right to do whatever they want. Is that true?
The Postmaster’s comments amount to nothing more than wishful thinking. In fact, Article 3 of the Contract (which is titled Management Rights) actually provides some very specific limitations on their rights in the workplace, rather than providing them with carte blanche to do whatever they want.
Although Postal management has the customary right to hire employees, to assign work, and determine the means for performing this work, Article 3 also begins with the following words: “The Employer shall have the exclusive right, subject to the provisions of this Agreement and consistent with applicable laws and regulations…”
What that means is that everything that management does
must adhere to the provisions of the Collective Bargaining Agreement as well as to all applicable USPS regulations, including but not limited to Handbooks and Manuals such as the M-41, the M-39, and the Employee and Labor Relations Manual; and to all applicable laws, including but not limited to The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA); the Federal Employees Compensation Act (FECA), and the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA).
In summary, Article 3 of the Contract (Management Rights) is not in any manner a manifesto to do whatever they want. Quite to the contrary, it clearly requires them to abide by our Contract and all that it incorporates. Their consistent refusal to do so is the root cause of nearly all workplace issues.
Q101: My State Driver’s License was temporarily suspended and management in my station said that they didn’t have to find work for me. Is that true?
No, that is NOT true. Article 29 of our Contract deals with situations involving the limitation or revocation of State Driver’s Licenses, as well as the suspension of postal driving privileges by management. This requires that “every reasonable effort will be made to assign the employee in non-driving duties in the employee’s craft or in other crafts.” This requirement is not contingent upon a letter carrier making a request for non-driving duties. Rather, it is management’s responsibility to find suitable work.
This responsibility was further defined by National Arbitrator Carlton Snow in April 1998 in case I94N-4I-D 96027608. In accordance with Arbitrator Snow’s award, in situations where letter carriers temporarily lose driving privileges, regardless of the reason,
management must: 1) first attempt to provide non-driving city letter craft duties within the carrier’s regular Installation and schedule. This can include delivery of mail where alternate transportation arrangements can be arranged. If sufficient work is unavailable within the carrier’s regular schedule, an attempt should be made to assign work on other hours and days; 2) If sufficient work is still unavailable, a further attempt should be made to identify work in other crafts as long as this would not be to the detriment of the employees of the other craft; 3) If there is such available work in another craft, but the carrier may not perform that work because it would violate that craft’s Contract agreement, the carrier must be paid for the time that the carrier otherwise would have performed that work.
In summary, management has a substantial and contractually mandated responsibility to find work for any letter carrier whose driving privileges have been temporarily suspended or revoked. Important: Be aware that Postal Service employees are required to immediately notify postal management if this has occurred. Failure to do so can result in serious disciplinary consequences.
Because of management’s obligations discussed above, a letter carrier should not fear a loss of work and use it as a reason for failing to notify management of the suspension of revocation of their State Driver’s license.
Q100: I was injured while delivering mail and was unable to work, and was told that there is a 3-day waiting period before I could receive Continuation of Pay. How does that work?
Postal Service employees that sustain job related traumatic injuries (which are reported on OWCP form CA-1) are covered by the provisions of the Federal Employees Compensation Act (FECA), which includes the provisions for Continuation of Pay (COP). Regulations for the FECA are generally applicable to all Postal Service as well as nonmilitary Federal employees. However, a hostile Republican amendment to a separate law, the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA) of 2006, imposed a 3-day waiting period for Continuation of Pay that applies only to injured USPS employees.
This is the same law which also imposed the pre-funding requirements on the USPS.
A letter carrier that is unable to work due to a job-related injury should immediately complete OWCP form CA-1, and check “Continuation of Pay” (COP) on line 15 of the form. If unable to work because of the injury, he/she should also provide medical documentation within ten days of the report of injury in order to have their regular pay continued. COP continues for up to a period of up to 45 calendar days from the date that work loss begins. For the first three days of work loss after the injury, a USPS employee has the option of using sick leave, annual leave, or leave without pay (or any combination thereof).
The choice of leave in this situation is always that of the injured employee, NOT management.
However, if the period of work loss due to the injury exceeds 14 days, the first three days can be changed to COP and any sick or annual leave used restored to the employee’s balances. It can be argued that management should make this pay adjustment without being prompted to by the injured employee or the union, in the real world management seldom ever does the right thing and thus it is advisable to notify management both verbally and in writing of a request to convert the first three days to COP. In this manner the request is documented and if necessary can be used in in a grievance to show that management was made aware of their obligation and still failed to do so.
Q99: Can a Letter Carrier on the Overtime Desired List decline an assignment of overtime work?
In general, the answer is NO. Except under limited circumstances, those that have signed the regular Overtime Desired List (ODL) carrier have an obligation to work overtime whenever assigned by management and wherever assigned by management, including work on nonscheduled days. Those signing the ODL should be aware that is not an "overtime when it is convenient" list. Also, those that have signed the Work Assignment Overtime Desired List have an obligation to work overtime on their own routes on their regularly scheduled days when assigned by management.
Additionally, National Arbitrator Mittenthal has ruled that an employee on the ODL does NOT have the option of refusing or accepting work over eight hours on a nonscheduled day, work over six days in a service week or overtime on more than four of the five scheduled days in a service week. Instead, an employee on the ODL must be required to work up to 12 hours in a day and 60 hours in a week (excluding December) before management may require employees not on the ODL to work off assignment or nonscheduled day overtime. Management must also utilize all forms of assistance, including the ODL up to 10 hours, before requiring an employee not on any ODL to work overtime on his or her own route.
Article 8, section 5.E of the Contract doe s provide limited exceptions to the requirement of any employee to work overtime, where a request by an employee to be bypassed "may be approved by local management in exceptional cases based on equity (e.g. anniversaries, birthdays, illness, deaths). “Based on equity” means that exceptions granted by management should be equally applied to all under the same or similar circumstances.
Q98: Management told me that they would be conducting an office count on my assignment the next day. How often can they do this?
Although there is no contractually established threshold for number of office counts (Form 1838-C) that can be performed by management, they should also not be used solely for purposes of harassment. Management does have the conventional authority to conduct a one-day office count on any letter carrier assignment after giving one day’s advance notice, per the provisions of the M-39 Handbook (Management of Delivery Services), section 141.2: “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. Use Form 1838-C to record count and time items concerned. The carrier must be advised of the result of the office mail count.”
A claim that excessive office counts constitute a form of harassment must be documented with evidence that one or more letter carriers are being singled out for repeated office counts. This claim becomes stronger if the results of these counts consistently indicate that the carrier performing office work within minimum casing standards, or that they are not being advised of the results of the office counts, as required by the language above.
Also keep in mind that any carrier receiving an office count does have the right to verify management’s count of the mail. Such verification should be of the entire count of mail (including DPS mail), and not just a “spot check.” Any violations of the above procedures committed by management should be reported to your steward immediately.
Q97: I was injured while delivering Mail and my Postmaster told me that I could not file a Workers Compensation claim because I didn’t report the injury within 24 hours. Is that true?
NO, that is not at all true, and it appears that the postmaster seriously misinformed (lied) to you about this. Although Postal Service regulations require that on the job injuries should be reported as soon as possible, this has nothing whatsoever to do with an injured employee’s right to initiate a traumatic injury claim on OWCP form CA-1. Applicable law, the Federal Employees Compensation Act (FECA), allows injured employees up to three years to report a compensable job-related injury for purposes of filing a workers compensation claim.
However, it is always in the best interests of an injured letter carrier to report an injury by requesting and completing form CA-1 as soon as possible after the injury occurs. Although the law allows three years from the date of injury to file a claim with OWCP, there are much shorter time limits that apply for purposes of eligibility for certain FECA benefits, such as Continuation of Pay (COP) by the employing agency for up to 45 calendar days. To be eligible for COP, the injury must be reported on a CA-1 within 30 days of its occurrence and supporting medical evidence provided within 10 days of the report of injury.
Finally, because postal management throughout Branch 2184 as well as elsewhere consistently misinforms letter carriers about every aspect of job related injury claims, always be sure that you have notified your steward or the Branch 2184 office of your injury as soon as you are able to do so. In this manner we can follow up in a timely manner to correct management misinformation and errors and to ensure that your rights are protected throughout every part of the injury compensation process.
Important: NEVER rely on postal management to properly respond to your job-related injury. Whether it is by their ignorance (which is widespread in Branch 2184-represented post offices) or through their deliberate obstruction of your rights and benefits, management WILL screw up your injury compensation claim. Count on it. Protect your rights by getting the Union involved immediately!
Q96: What is the Procedure for a Letter Carrier in Branch 2184 to Request Incidental Annual Leave?
Incidental annual leave, which is also known as “leave remaining” refers to any annual leave requests that are submitted by a letter carrier after the initial two rounds of vacation selections have been completed. In Branch 2184, the negotiated procedures for incidental annual leave submissions are found in our Local Memorandum of Understanding (LMOU) Item 4, section 7 as well as in Item 12, section 2. Incidental annual leave is requested solely at the discretion of the letter carrier.
In Branch 2184, the submission procedures for incidental leave requests are as follows: All requests shall be made on a completed PS Form 3971, no earlier than six (6) weeks prior to the first day of the vacation week in which the leave requested is to begin.
For example, if a Branch 2184 letter carrier wanted a few days off during the third week of September 2018 (the week beginning Monday, September 17 through Saturday, September 23), he/she is eligible to submit a 3971 requesting the leave six weeks prior to that week, or beginning on Monday, August 6. Incidental annual leave requests submitted more than six weeks in advance of the week the leave is requested for should not be approved and the requesting carrier should be advised to resubmit their request at the appropriate time.
In Branch 2184, Incidental annual leave (leave remaining) requests are approved on a first come, first serve basis, and they must be granted up to the number allowed off during that week. Leave in excess of the negotiated percentages should also be granted to the extent possible. Requests for incidental annual leave made for the same period and submitted on the same day are granted on the basis of seniority or relative standing. Finally, all requests for incidental annual leave must be placed in the immediate supervisor’s hand, not left on a desk or other location. Management shall respond within seventy-two (72) hours from the time of submission (excluding Sundays and holidays), or the request will be granted.
Q95: Can a Letter Carrier be excused from work to Vote in this Year’s Primary and General Elections?
Postal Service regulations pertaining to voting or registering to vote are found in the Employee and Labor Relations Manual (ELM), sections 519.321 through 519.325. Career regular letter carriers who desire to vote in any election, referendum, or civic matter in their community should be excused for a reasonable time for that purpose on a day they are scheduled to work. Non-career carriers such as CCAs are encouraged to vote but are not eligible for administrative leave for this purpose.
Postal Service management is charged with making an administrative determination regarding the amount of excused absence that is necessary. Employees are to be notified of this determination and of the procedures to be followed in obtaining advance approval for the absence, which is subject to the following provisions, as found in ELM section 519.323: As a general rule, if the polls are not open at least 3 hours either before or after an employee’s scheduled hours of work, the employee may be excused for the length of time that permits them report to work 3 hours after the polls open or to leave work 3 hours before polls close, whichever requires the lesser amount of time off. In Michigan, polls for elections are open from 7:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m. on the day of an election.
Finally, ALL letter carriers are strongly encouraged not only to participate in the voting process, but also to consider voting by absentee ballot.
This eliminates the hassle and concern of finding time to vote on the actual day of an election. Absentee ballot applications can be requested or obtained from any city, township, or county clerk’s office. In Michigan, there is a commonsense and overdue legislative initiative that if adopted would allow for absentee voting for any reason, merely upon request and verification of the voter.
Another viable option would be the adoption off a “Vote By Mail” election process that would significantly increase voter turnout by making voting much easier and more accessible for all eligible Michigan citizens. Unfortunately, at this time the adoption of these proposals in Michigan is problematic at best because of strong opposition by the current majority party in the Michigan legislature, whose political philosophy is to obstruct and interfere with individual voting rights to the maximum extent possible instead of making the process more workable.
Q94: I am in the Army Reserve and must take time off for drills and training. How does Military Leave work?
The Employee and Labor Relations Manual (ELM) section 517.11 states that “The Postal Service supports employee service in the Reserve or National Guard, and no action is permitted to discourage either voluntary or involuntary participation.” USPS employees must be allowed to participate in drills or meetings scheduled by the National Guard or Reserve Units of the armed forces. This also includes training periods and any active duty ordered by the National Guard or armed forces Reserves.
Career Postal Service employees, both full time and part time, are eligible for paid military leave. Non-career employees must be permitted to be absent but are not eligible for paid military leave. When requesting military leave, an employee should complete PS Form 3971 as soon as possible before the period of absence. Upon return from military duty, the employee should provide a copy of their military orders or other appropriate documentation to show that the duty was performed. Military leave may be taken on an intermittent basis, as is often the case with weekend drills.
Fulltime USPS career employees receive 15 calendar days (120 hours) of paid military leave each fiscal year, and an employee may carry over up to one year’s allotted but unused military leave from one fiscal year to the next. An employee must be in a pay status (work or paid leave) either immediately prior to immediately after the end of military duty to receive military leave pay. Finally, an employee needing absences for military training or active duty beyond their yearly allowance of military leave can use annual leave or leave without pay (LWOP), at the employee/s option.
Q93: Some customers on my route do not want ad mail such as the Red Plums or similar mailings delivered to them. Can I just skip these addresses and just deliver the ads to those that want them?
In a word, NO!
An individual letter carrier has no authority whatsoever to ever withhold ANY
deliverable mail for any address, even if a customer allegedly claims that they don’t want it. The provisions of Handbook M-41, City Carrier Delivery Du-ties and Responsibilities, section 131.33, state that “Unless otherwise instructed by a unit manager, de-liver 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 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 in advance by management 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 person-ally 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 very serious disciplinary action. Additionally, do NOT rely on improper local policies or information from your supervisor concerning the disposition of undeliverable mail. Instead, be sure that you understand and utilize the specific procedures found in the M-41 Handbook, sections 241 through 243.
In summary, this 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, with NO exceptions. Any mail that cannot be delivered because of safety hazards or for other reasons also requires the completion of PS Form 1571 upon re-turn to the office that day. Additionally, ALL mail for a customer that has completed a “Hold” notice must be held – including ad mailings. A letter carrier’s core job each day is to deliver all mail that can properly be delivered to every address on their assignment, and to hold all mail when this has been requested by a customer. Once this is done, the mail is no longer our concern and the customer can do whatever they want with it.
Q92: I have some business deliveries where I take the mail inside. I was told that we did not have to lock our postal vehicles if we were only going to be away for a minute or less. Is that correct?
No, that is definitely NOT correct, and you were seriously misinformed. The M-41 Handbook (City Carriers Duties and Responsibilities), section 822.f reads as follows: “Lock the doors if you will be out of direct sight of the vehicle.” Additionally, USPS Handbook EL-814 (Postal Employees Guide to Safety) section 10.3.D states that “All vehicle doors must be secured when the vehicle is left unattended and out of the driver’s immediate sight.” In most instances entering a building means that the postal vehicle would be out of the driver’s immediate sight or at the least would no longer be immediately accessible.
Those rules are clear and are necessary to ensure the security of the postal vehicle and its con-tents. In fact, all letter carriers should make it a personal practice to lock their postal vehicle even when it remains in sight
if they are unable to return to the vehicle within a few seconds, which is all it takes for a theft to occur. When in doubt, always come down on the side of safety and the security of the mail.
Additionally, ALWAYS be sure to turn the postal vehicle ignition off before leaving the driver’s seat for any reason, even if for just a few seconds, for example when doing any kind of dismount delivery or when retrieving mail or parcels from the back of the vehicle. NEVER leave the vehicle running for any reason if your posterior is not in contact with the seat. Postal vehicles are notorious for slipping out of gear, potentially resulting in a very serious rollaway/runaway accident.
Q91: Do Letter Carriers get additional 10-minute breaks when working overtime?
No. There is a long-existing myth that letter carrier work beyond eight hours in a day results in additional contractually mandated break time. However, this is not the case. Letter carriers do receive two paid 10-minute breaks during the course of an eight-hour day in accordance with the M-39 Handbook section 242.341.
In Branch 2184-represented stations, both of these breaks are taken during the street time portion of the letter carrier work day, at times and locations that are determined solely by the carrier. The breaks cannot be combined with each other or with lunch, but otherwise can be taken at any time during the street portion of a letter carrier’s workday. Letter carriers holding individual bid assignments as well as T-6 carriers should list the approximate locations of their breaks on Form 1564-A, Delivery Instructions, which should be in the route book for each assignment.
Although letter carriers working overtime do not receive additional paid 10-minute breaks, break time necessary to attend to personal needs can be and should be taken whenever this is needed throughout the work day, including while in an overtime status. There is no contractual limitation on the number of breaks necessary for personal needs; this should be whatever is reasonable and appropriate for each individual letter carrier. When you have to go, you have to go. It is never in the best interests of your health and safety to “hold it” for any reason.
Q90: I was off work for several months because of job-related injury and was paid wage compensation by OWCP. During this time, the Postal Service made deductions from my annual leave balance. Why is this?
Fulltime career USPS employees that incur periods of Leave Without Pay (LWOP) totaling 80 hours or more (one pay period) in a pay year will see an impact on their leave balances, regardless of the reason for LWOP. The Employee and Labor Relations Manual (ELM) section 514.24 provides that such employees “have their leave credit reduced by the amount earned in one pay period.” Thus, for every 80 hours of LWOP used during a pay year, either four, six or eight hours of annual leave (depending on leave earnings category) will be deducted from the leave that was credited to them at the beginning of the year. Additionally, one pay period’s worth of sick leave (four hours) will not be earned and thus not credited in the usual manner.
It is important to always remember that the new annual leave balances that are credited to all fulltime employees each year in January do NOT represent leave that has already been earned at that time. Instead, it merely credited in advance for vacation planning and other purposes. Letter carriers will sometimes find that they no longer have sufficient leave to cover a scheduled vacation because of excess LWOP usage earlier during that year. Those planning to retire should also carefully monitor their annual leave usage to ensure that they did not use more leave than had actually been earned at the time of retirement.
Finally, as discussed in a previous Contract Corner Q and A, excess LWOP (regardless of amount) does not impact retirement credit for Postal Service employees with accepted OWCP claims and that are drawing wage loss compensation from OWCP, or those that are working fulltime for an employee organization such as the NALC. However, if more than six months (1040 hours) of LWOP is used during a single pay year for other reasons such as a non-job related illness or injury, this likely will impact retirement credit.
Q89: Management told me that medical documentation they required from me must have a diagnosis and prognosis. Is that correct?
NO, that is very much not correct. Under NO circumstances can management ever require a specific medical diagnosis or a prognosis in medical documentation provided by an employee.
Such requirements exceed management’s scope of authority as well as violate medical privacy statutes. Unfortunately there are still some in management that are apparently incapable of understanding this, including the postmaster of at least one Branch 2184- represented installation.
When letter carriers are told to provide medical documentation of a sick leave absence, it need only meet the requirements of the Employee and Labor Relations Manual (ELM) section 513.364, which states 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 absence. Normally, medical statements such as “under my care” or “received treatment” are not acceptable evidence of incapacitation to perform duties.”
Note that nothing in the above-cited regulations makes any reference to or even hints at a requirement to provide a medical diagnosis or prognosis. Instead, medical documentation should merely provide a general explanation of the nature of the employee’s condition (i.e. symptoms) that is preventing him or her from performing normal letter carrier duties.
In summary, any demand from management that the contents of medical documentation include a medical diagnosis or prognosis must be immediately be challenged through the grievance procedure. Additionally, ALL management demands for medical documentation for ANY sick leave absence of three work days or less should ALWAYS be responded to with a grievance immediately upon return to work.
Q88: I called to tell management that I could not finish my route in 8 hours and they instructed me to continue until I was done. The next day they told me that the Overtime I worked was somehow “unauthorized.” How can that be?
It can’t be. Whenever a letter carrier advises management of the need to work overtime and the carrier is in turn instructed to complete all duties, this becomes a direct authorization of the overtime which results. Any management claim to the contrary is contractually unsupported doubletalk. Such a claim ultimately amounts absolutely nothing and cannot validly be used for any purpose. Additionally, unless management completes a PS Form 1017-B, “Unauthorized Overtime Record,” their phony claims of alleged unauthorized overtime amount to nothing more than meaningless opinion. Of note, if management does complete a 1017-B for overtime work that they have previously authorized, this should immediately be challenged through the grievance procedure.
To reiterate, any overtime worked by a letter carrier in direct response to a management instruction has by definition been authorized, no matter how management tries to subsequently spin it. Such rhetorical game playing by management should normally be laughed off, unless a PS Form 1017-B is completed. If this occurs, the next step is to see your steward for purposes of initiating a grievance to challenge management’s delusional and entirely improper designation of “unauthorized” overtime.
Q87: Are Letter Carriers required to sign for disciplinary actions that they receive?
There is no such requirement. In fact there are only a few things that letter carriers are ever required to sign or initial for, such as a leave request (PS Form 3971), a change of schedule request made for their own personal convenience (PS Form 3189), or specific accountable mail items as defined in the M-41 handbook section 261. Letter carriers are NOT required to sign or initial for anything else, including but by no means limited to training logs, service/safety talks, receipt of information, gas cards, etc.
Instructions to sign for any of these items (as well as many others) should initially be complied with and then immediately followed by a request to meet with your steward to initiate a grievance.
The subject of postal employee signatures on disciplinary actions and its ramifications has been debated for many years. However, ultimately an employee signature or the absence thereof is essentially irrelevant to management’s obligation of proving just cause for any disciplinary action. There is a perception that signing a disciplinary denotes agreement with its contents. Although this is understandable, this is not at all the case.
Instead, it is far important that upon receiving a disciplinary action a letter carrier immediately requests to meet with his or her NALC steward to begin the process of investigating and initiating a timely grievance in response.
Ultimately, all that matters is whether management can prove just cause for the issuance of the disciplinary action. This burden of proof is entirely upon them. Keep in mind that a grievance must be discussed at the initial step of the Dispute Resolution Process within 14 days of when the subject disciplinary action was received, so a meeting with your steward is the first and foremost response to any such action by management.
Q86: What is the “5-minute leeway” rule and how does it work?
The “5-minute leeway” rule is a pay rule that is often misunderstood. Postal Service regulations regarding this rule are found in the Employee and Labor Relations Manual (ELM) sections 432.461 through 432.465. ELM 432.461 states “Although each employee at installations with time recording devices is required to clock in and clock out on time, congestion at time clocks or other condition can sometimes cause clock time to vary slightly from the established work schedule. Therefore, a deviation may be allowed from the scheduled time for each clock ring up to 0.08 hour (5 minutes).”
The 5-minute leeway rule applies ONLY to full-time and part-time regular employees, not to CCAs or to PTFs. The latter are allowed the 5- minute leeway for clocking purposes, but they are paid on the basis of actual daily clock rings. The 5 minute leeway rule also applies only to the scheduled tour of duty. If an employee works in an overtime status immediately prior to or after their scheduled tour, they are paid for all actual clock time and the 5- minute leeway rule does not apply to their workhours that day.
The 5-minute leeway rule is applied as follows: If a full-time regular employee’s clock ring totals for a regularly scheduled tour are between 7.92 and 8.08 hours, the time should be adjusted to 8:00 hours. An exception occurs when an eight-hour workday includes a combination of both work and paid leave. In that situation the employee is paid for actual time worked, with the balance charged to paid (sick or annual) leave.
In summary, letter carriers are required to clock in on time, but not prior to the scheduled start of their tour. Letter carriers are also required to clock out on time, unless authorized to continue working. However, due to clock congestion or other similar conditions, there is a 5-minute leeway rule that allows clock rings to be rounded to 8:00 hours for pay purposes.
Q85: Can management allow letter carriers to work off the clock if they want to?
Under NO circumstances can management ever allow any letter carrier to perform any work while not in a pay status. Recently, a misguided supervisor in a Branch 2184-represented office erroneously claimed that he could not stop a carrier that allegedly “wanted” to work off the clock. However, the supervisor‟ s deceitful claim is directly contradicted by specific Contract language that is found in Article 41, section 3.K of the Collective Bargaining Agreement: “Supervisors will not require, nor permit, employees to work off the clock.” That language cannot be much clearer. It is management’s direct responsibility at all times to ensure that all employees are only performing work while in a pay status.
Additionally, the M-41 Handbook (City Carriers Duties and Responsibilities) section 112.26 states that “Do not report at cases or racks before tour of duty is scheduled to begin or linger about cases or racks after tour has ended.” What this means is that letter carriers should not be in their immediate work location either before or after their scheduled tour of duty.
Any work-related function, including the rearrangement of mail distributed to cases and similar tasks, must always done on paid time only. The mail that is sitting at letter cases isn’t going anywhere and will still be there after the letter carrier is on official time. There is simply NO reason to ever perform any work related function while off the clock. What’s your hurry, anyway?
Q84: Supervisors in my station have been bringing mail out to letter carriers on the street and have also been taking back our collection mail. Can they do this?
In a word - NO. The transportation of mail to and from city letter carrier routes is work that is solely designated as city letter carrier bargaining unit work. Article 1, section 6.A of the Collective Bargaining Agreement provides that “Supervisors are prohibited from bargaining unit work at post offices with 100 or more bargaining unit employees, except in an emergency, for purposes or training or instruction, to ensure the proper operation of equipment, to protect the safety of employees, or to protect the property of the USPS.” In post offices with less than 100 bargaining unit employees, the same prohibitions apply unless the work is specifically included in the supervisor’s job description. Even in that situation, this does not authorize the supervisor to perform bargaining unit of work as a matter of course every day.
Thus, unless one of the uncommon and situation-specific exceptions noted above exists, management is directly prohibited from taking out mail to the street or bringing back mail from letter carrier assignments. Typically, management tries to get away with doing this to avoid paying one or more letter carriers to do this work. However, if a supervisor has time to be doing work that belongs to other employees, it calls into question the necessity of supervisor’s own job to begin with. Whenever management is observed doing letter carrier work, document the details and initiate a timely grievance. Management will end up having to pay one or more letter carriers for this work anyway.
Q83: 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.
Q82: 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.
Q81: 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.
Q80: 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.
Q79: 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.
Q78: 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.
Q77: 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 the ELM, 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.
Q76: 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.
Q75: 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.
Q74: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.
Q73: 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.
Q72: 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.
Q71: 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.
Q70: 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.
Q69: 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.
Q68: 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.
Q67: 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.
Q66: 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.
Q65: 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.
Q64: 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.
Q63: 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.
Q62: 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.
Q61: 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.
Q60: 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.
Q59: 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?
Q58: 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.
Q57: 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.
Q56: 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.
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 underutilized right for any letter carrier, who should 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.
Q54: 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?
Q53: 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.
Q52: 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.
Q51: 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.
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.
Q50: 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.
Q49: 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.
Q48: 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).
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.
Q46: 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.
Q45: 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.
Q44: 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.
Q43: 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.
Q42: 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.
Q41: 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.
Q40: 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.
Q39: 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.
Q38: 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.
Q37: 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.
Q36: 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.
Q35: 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.
Q34: 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.
Q33: 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.
Q32: 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.
Q31: 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.
Q30: 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.
Q29: 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.
Q28: 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.
Q27: 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.
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.
Q25: 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.
Q24: 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.
Q23: 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.
Q22: 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.
Q21: 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.
Q20: I am a PTF carrier and I bid on a vacation hold down. The schedule of the route is from 7:30 to 4:00 but management told me to come in on a Friday at 12:30 and they had another carrier do the route. It was not the regularly scheduled day off for that route. Wasn’t I guaranteed the right to do the route?
Yes, under the circumstances described above you were entitled to perform the duties and work the schedule of the hold down (opted) assignment and cannot be displaced from it. This guarantee is defined by provisions of Article 41, sections 2.B.3, 4, and 5 of our Contract, and applies except in the rare instance of their not being enough work for a full time regular carrier. Since this was a Friday, it appears that management was deviously attempting to limit your total work hours and their overtime liability for that week by improperly removing you from your hold down. However, they may not do so in order to avoid the payment of overtime. Whenever this occurs, the affected employee(s) should immediately request to see their Steward. The Joint Contract Administration Manual (JCAM) defines the remedy for such violations of the Contract as payment to the affected employee for all hours that they were denied the schedule of the opted for (hold down) assignment.
Q19: 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.
Q18: 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.
Q17: 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.
Q16: 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.
Q15: Can management set an appropriate pace at which letter carriers must walk?
September/ October 2008
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.
Q14: 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.
Q13: 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.
Q12: 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.
Q11: 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.
Q10: 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.
Q9: 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
Q8: 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.
Q7: 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.”
Q6: 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.
Q5: 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.
Q4: 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.
Q3: 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.
Q2: 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.
Q1: 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.