Our objective was to assess whether timecard adjustments were made in accordance with Postal Service policy and to assess enhancements to the timecard system.
Our fieldwork began before the president of the United States issued the national emergency declaration concerning the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak on March 13, 2020. The results of this audit do not reflect any timecard-related process changes that may have occurred as a result of the pandemic or recent operational changes.
The Postal Service uses the Time and Attendance Collection System (TACS) to capture the number of workhours employees spend working in various Postal Service operations. Employees record the times and types of operation they work by swiping their employee identification card on a badge reader at the facility. Each swipe updates their timecard record in TACS and is referred to as a clock ring.
Installation heads, such as Plant Managers and Postmasters, are responsible for ensuring the integrity and accuracy of time and attendance data reporting from their facilities. Managers and supervisors share the responsibility of correcting reporting errors and are required to enter all timecard adjustments for their employees.
A timecard adjustment occurs when a supervisor deletes, adds, or changes a clock ring in TACS to adjust an employee’s combination of work and leave hours. Time is disallowed when a supervisor observes or has proven knowledge that an employee did not work while “on the clock” and makes an adjustment in TACS. Employees are not paid for disallowed time, which can affect their eligibility to receive overtime pay.
When an adjustment occurs, supervisors must prepare written timecard entries on Postal Service Form 1017-A, Time Disallowance Record. Supervisors are responsible for retaining these forms in hard copy at their facility for three years. On June 25, 2020, the Postal Service implemented a TACS enhancement to digitize and electronically retain time disallowance records electronically. The goal of the enhancement was to ensure compliance with the time disallowance record retention policy.
From June to November 2019, we identified 137,560 disallowed timecard adjustments totaling 46,025 hours nationwide. We reviewed a judgmental sample of 313 disallowed timecard adjustments during this period for seven Postal Service facilities in the Capital, Chicago, and South Florida districts because they had a high number of clock ring counts and disallowed timecard adjusted hours.
Timecard adjustments are a recurring issue within the Postal Service. Postal Service supervisors did not maintain supporting documentation for disallowing time, as required by policy. Additionally, there were deficiencies in the new TACS enhancement that allow supervisors to bypass completing the required supporting documentation when disallowing time.
At the seven facilities we visited, we found that 34 of 36 (94 percent) managers and supervisors did not consistently complete and maintain proper supporting documentation for time disallowed through deleted, added, or adjusted clock rings. Specifically, supervisors did not properly complete the time disallowance records for 269 of 313 (86 percent) disallowed timecard adjustments.
Disallowed timecard adjustments were made without proper documentation because supervisors misinterpreted the time disallowance policy and installation heads did not provide adequate oversight. For example, of the 313 disallowed timecard adjustments, 96 were for mealtime, “out to lunch,” adjustments. Supervisors could not provide the time disallowance records for 90 of the 96 (94 percent) lunch disallowed timecard adjustments. Additionally, there is no requirement for installation heads to regularly review the documentation supporting supervisors’ adjustments.
We identified about 225 hours that equaled $3,941 in unpaid wages at the seven visited sites due to supervisors not properly supporting disallowed timecard adjustments. Additionally, from fiscal years (FY) 2014 to 2019, employees filed 41 grievances nationwide related to disallowed time, resulting in $532,708 in grievance payments. Improper disallowed timecard adjustments could also subject the Postal Service to fines and penalties under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
While the Postal Service recently updated TACS, it is not pursuing initiatives to update the time collection devices. The company that built the badge readers used by the Postal Service went out of business in August 2018. There are only 21,599 remaining readers in use, and management stated that if nothing is done, they will run out of serviceable units by Quarter 3, FY 2021. The Postal Service is at a critical decision point where it could retire the out-of-production devices and move the agency toward modern, more accurate timekeeping based on employee movements throughout the workday. However, rather than replacing badge readers with newer technology, the Postal Service’s current strategy focuses on extending the use of the existing badge readers. When the Postal Service can no longer maintain the badge readers, the short-term solution would be to revert to manual timekeeping, which is labor intensive, more costly, and increases the risk of inaccurate TACS reporting.
In other matters, the June 2020 TACS enhancement had deficiencies that make it possible for supervisors to bypass completing the required electronic time disallowance records. If a supervisor bypassed the form, the corresponding disallowed timecard adjustment would be considered for pay purposes but not recorded on the employee’s time disallowance record in TACS. These deficiencies create a risk of incomplete information, which could affect the accuracy of management reports generated through TACS and increase the risk of more grievances. The Postal Service acknowledged the deficiencies and has a plan to correct them once it performs higher priority TACS updates. Therefore, we are not making a recommendation on this matter at this time.
We recommended management:
- Reiterate disallowed time policy regarding lunch clock rings to supervisors and managers.
- Establish a formal oversight process to ensure periodic reviews of supervisors’ documentation supporting disallowed timecard adjustments.
- Procure and test new, automated time collection devices for the Postal Service to implement throughout its facilities.
- Resolve system deficiencies that allow supervisors to bypass completing the time disallowance record in TACS to ensure disallowed timecard adjustments are reported in timekeeping reports.
Related: USPS OIG: Have You Had Timecard Issues Related to Disallowed Time or Time Charged to Wrong Code?
Source: USPS Office of Inspector General