(This article appears in the July/August 2014 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)
Tony D. McKinnon Sr., Industrial Relations Director
The APWU has received complaints from union members recently of instances where the Postal Service is violating their rights under federal law, most notably the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) and the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA).
These laws were passed by Congress and signed into law by then-President Clinton to protect workers’ jobs. The FMLA protects postal employees when they have to be absent from work because of serious medical conditions or certain family situations, and USERRA protects employees who are absent from work due to military service.
Most postal employees are aware of FMLA leave, but they also should be aware that the key element of FMLA is that it protects employees’ right to return to their jobs after an extended absence that meets the criteria outlined in the law. It is also important for employees to understand that they have responsibilities that protect their ability to exercise these rights.
Employees are responsible for notifying the Postal Service of their absence and documenting the reasons they qualify for FMLA leave. To facilitate this process, the APWU developed a form that is more user-friendly than the standard form developed by Department of Labor, Form WH-380. The APWU had to win an arbitration case to maintain our members’ right to use the form developed by the APWU.
Recently, we have received an influx of complaints about management’s demands that employees provide excessive amounts of medical information – far beyond what is required by the law. These invasive demands are unacceptable.
We also have received reports that the Postal Service is resisting the requirement to allow employees to use the APWU form, despite the fact that it was upheld by an arbitrator. Neither of these management actions is allowed by our contract or the law.
I have requested information from the USPS on these issues and will meet with management at the headquarters level to challenge the Postal Service’s improper and unlawful actions in regard to your FMLA rights. If you have experienced situations like these or have other FMLA-related issues, please feel free to contact the Industrial Relations Department.
USERRA protects the jobs of employees who serve in the armed forces. The law prohibits employers from discriminating against employees based on their military service, and allows employees to return to their civilian jobs after five years or less of cumulative service in the military.
Regrettably, the Postal Service is mismanaging the implementation of USERRA and violating employees’ rights. As a veteran who comes from a military town, this has special meaning for me. I know first-hand how important USERRA rights are in honoring the commitment that our fellow employees have made to our country.
When employees return to work after military service and are victimized by violations of their USERRA rights, it is a blatant act of disrespect by the Postal Service to these employees. Please contact the Industrial Relations Department to report any problems you have experienced with the Postal Service’s application of USERRA.
The reports of management’s violations of our members’ rights have come from locals all over the country, making it clear that this problem must be dealt with head-on. The Industrial Relations Department is in the process of designing programs to educate and advocate for the protection of APWU members’ FMLA and USERRA rights. More information will follow.
Time Limits Extended For National Convention
The APWU and USPS have agreed to extend the time limits for grievances and appeals to arbitration during the weeks surrounding the APWU National Convention. From July 14 to Aug. 1, time limits for filing and appealing grievances will be extended for a period of 19 days beyond those specified in the contract. No arbitration cases will be scheduled during the 19-day period, and suspensions that would have been served because grievances had not been filed or appealed will be deferred.