Is the Postal Service Sick?
(This article first appeared in the November/December 2018 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine)
By Western Regional Coordinator Omar Gonzalez
33,400+ employees are absent daily claims management, triggering their Attendance Control Employee Availability (AC/EA) crackdown while they impose so-called “Dynamic Scheduling.”
Leave rules in CBA Article 10 and the Employee & Labor Relations Manual (ELM) Chapter 510 have existed for 40 years. ACEA can’t change those rules. ELM 665.11 requires you to be regular in attendance. However, ELM 511.1 requires management to administer leave on an equitable basis for all employees considering a) the needs of the service b) the welfare of the individual employee.
Too often management imposes discipline using select rules and dictates, such as, three (3) absences in 90 days requires discipline. This dictate violates the contract. “It is the supervisor’s review of the attendance record in light of all relevant evidence, NOT any set number of absences that determines whether corrective action is warranted.” [Article 10.1; 10.2 JCIM].
Stand By Your Rights
You have the right to earn and use sick leave which insures you against loss of pay if you’re incapacitated because of illness, injury, pregnancy, confinement, medical exams, appointments/ treatments (including optical/dental) [ELM 513.11].
Management has always claimed they can issue discipline even for approved sick leave. However, properly documented and approved sick leave should not be used in and of itself, in a way that is against your interests. Nor can management violate official leave regulations like failing to give you copies of your 3971s. You have the right to challenge management’s actions. (PSEs please see below)
Not Just Cause They Can
To issue discipline our Contract requires management have “just cause.” There are several “tests” your supervisor must use before taking discipline. Also, discipline must be corrective, progressive and not punitive [Article 16 JCIM].
Tests include there be reasonable attendance rules and proof you’re aware of them. Official rules can’t be altered [Article 10 JCIM], must be applied fairly, without discrimination, be consistently and equitably enforced.
No Scripted Witch Hunts
Your supervisor must complete a thorough objective investigation BEFORE they can issue discipline which includes your “day in court” right to know in detail the charges, to be able to defend yourself. Under Weingarten rules you have a right to have your steward present: Per EL 921 stewards have the right to:
- fully participate in the interview
- ask the supervisor questions
- (e.g., on application of rules, equal treatment etc.)
- comment on supervisor’s questions (especially leading/misleading questions read from a script)
- help clarify your answers to questions
- discuss favorable facts (e.g. your past record and other relevant factors)
Whether management may impose discipline for alleged excessiveabsenteeism (including approved leave) is a question of fact and must be determined on a case by case basis in light of all relevant factors/evidence [Arb. Case NCNAT-16 285; JCIM 10.2]. You should challenge every instance of AWOL; unscheduled leave determinations, return to work meetings, improper demands for substantiation, inaccurate 3971s; and unjust discipline.
Change Is Here
The mid-term elections have consequences. Our contract fight continues as our Brother, Northeast Coordinator John Durzius retires. Coordinator Stone, Gallagher, Beasley and I wish you a blessed New Year and extend our prayers for those who passed on in 2018.
Under the 2015 CBA, PSEs do not earn sick leave; they accrue annual leave. PSE attendance rules are on page 71 JCIM. PSEs can also file grievances for violations of these rules, improper AWOL and unjust discipline. The CBA (page 255) prohibits management from firing PSEs for exercising their grievance rights.