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Letters to Editor




Arb. Summary - Compensation for Travel and Local Community Area
(posted 7/1/04)

This case involves the Union’s challenge to Management’s interpretation of and failure to compensate Grievant for “travel time” spent moving between his home and a work (training) facility, other than the Grievant’s official duty station.   The training facility was located approximately 48 miles from the grievant’s official duty station.  The Postal Service claimed that the training facility was within a 50 mile radius of the grievant’s official duty station.  According to the Postal Service, the Southern California area is interconnected, not rural, and clearly suburban with its interconnected commuting patterns and close proximity of residential dwellings to work locations. A review of the normal travel patterns of employees from Oxnard, Santa Barbara and Ventura find that they are highly mobile, commute more often than not, and are part of the same suburban area and not entitled to travel pay


The Union correctly contended that the training was outside the suburban area immediately surrounding the Oxnard Plant and was not within the local commuting area as provided for in ELM 438. Training in this case occurred at the Santa Barbara Plant, which is not within the local commuting or suburban area of Oxnard, an approximate 47.99 miles distance.


The arbitrator wisely sustained the Union’s grievance and awarded the grievant 1.5 hours of compensation for all time spent in a travel status for the duration of the training program.


The arbitrator correctly interpreted the relevant handbooks as well as the Collective Bargaining Agreement sections that address the issue of travel when he dismissed the Postal Service’s attempt to demonstrate its “interconned” theory.  This newly created Postal term has never been bargained for nor do the applicable handbooks, manuals, and the Collective Bargaining Agreement permit the use of this term in determining whether an employee is entitled to pay for travel.  Given the above the arbitrator ruled:


After a careful analysis and consideration of the evidence presented, arguments of parties, and review of numerous arbitral decisions and maps of the geographical areas involved, the Arbitrator finds for the Union. Goleta is not within the Grievant’s local community area. The Grievant is entitled to receive travel pay as requested from his official duty station (Oxnard) to his official travel destination (Goleta) pursuant to ELM Section 438. Notwithstanding that Grievant’s travel commute was within the authorized 50 mile travel radius (47.99) from Oxnard to Goleta, it cannot be said by any stretch of the imagination or can it be considered, that Oxnard is a suburb of Goleta [Santa Barbara]. More persuasive is an argument that Oxnard is a suburban area immediately surrounding Los Angeles, than Oxnard being a suburban area that immediately surround Goleta-Santa Barbara. The commuting pattern of this interconnected suburban area flows southward towards Los Angeles in greater numbers on a daily bases, rather than northward out of the commuting area, towards the Goleta-Santa Barbara area. Although the Arbitrator agrees with Arbitrator Klein (Case No. J94C-4J-C 9708784) that a “suburban area immediately surrounding the employee’s official duty station does not require that the geographical locations border each other,” the Arbitrator is not likewise inclined to find, based on lack of geographic proximity, that the Northern Goleta [Santa Barbara] area is within the suburban area “immediately surrounding” Grievant’s Southern California Oxnard duty station.


As more fully summarized by Arbitrator Eaton, supra, when presented with a similar “pay for travel” case in Northern California:


“Thus, while the Postal Service in the present dispute attempts to reiterate the argument that the 50 mile radius should be the controlling factor, both the language of the relevant handbooks and manuals and the arbitration cases interpreting those provisions make it clear that the 50 mile radius alone is not the controlling factor. The “suburban area” test must also be applied, and the Postal Service argument fails that test in this dispute.”


Accordingly, for the reasons stated above, the Union’s grievance is sustained.

Gary Kloepfer
Assistant Director "A"
(202) 842-4213
(202) 289-3746 FAX


To qualify for relocation benefits, your new permanent duty station must be at least 50 miles farther from your former residence than your former permanent duty station was from your former residence. This is known as the "50-mile rule." See the illustration and formula below to determine how the rule works:


Note: If the distance test result is less than 100 miles, you are to move at least half the distance.

Exception to the Distance Requirement

If you are a newly appointed postmaster and the district manager or area vice president deem it necessary that you move to your new community, you do not have to comply with the 50-mile rule to qualify for relocation benefits. However, the approving official may reduce or disallow benefits for advance round trips and temporary quarters.

Retirees do not need to comply with minimum miles, as they have no new permanent duty station.

Q & A

Relocation Benefits

 As a nonbargaining employee, if I am reassigned to another position or I am successful in obtaining another position competitively, to what relocation benefits am I entitled?

If your new position meets the 50 mile rule as defined by IRS regulations (see Exhibit above) you are entitled to relocation benefits applicable to nonbargaining employees. Please note that if the distance test result is less than 100 miles, you are to move at least half the distance to qualify for relocation. See table on page 25 for an overview of relocation benefits available.

 If I obtain the position noncompetitively, to what relocation benefits am I entitled?

If the position is obtained noncompetitively, relocation benefits are available only if management certifies that the move is primarily in the best interests of the Postal Service and not primarily for your convenience or benefit. The 50 mile rule would have to be met and if the distance test result is less than 100 miles, you are to move at least half the distance.

As a bargaining employee, if I am reassigned to another position outside my commuting area under the terms of my collective bargaining agreement, am I entitled to relocation benefits?

Yes, if your reassignment is involuntary and falls under the provisions of Article 12, and your new position meets the 50 mile rule as defined by IRS regulations you are entitled to relocation benefits in accordance with Article 12 of the applicable collective bargaining agreement. For an overview, see the table on page 25 that shows relocation benefits available to bargaining employees.

Unemployment Compensation

Can I apply for unemployment compensation?

Yes, any employee who is separated may apply for unemployment compensation. Your personnel office will provide you with Standard Form 8, Notices to Federal Employees About Unemployment Insurance. This form explains the general eligibility requirements for unemployment compensation and the steps to file a claim for benefits.


source: Publication 164 (note: some of the information was taken from updated version [January 2003] of Publication 164)