ADMINISTRATIVE LAW JUDGE DEALS MAJOR SETBACK TO POSTAL
more articles by Dan Sullivan
An Administrative Law Judge has ruled the Postal Service violated the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 when it required a Kalamazoo postal worker to provide medical documentation certifying she was no threat to herself or others before she was allowed to return to work after a one-day FMLA absence.
Linda Miller, a mail processor at the Kalamazoo P&DC had called in sick on May 31, 2002 because of an FMLA approved depression and anxiety disorder condition. The attendance boss taking the call-in informed Miller she was not allowed back to work without medical documentation certifying she was no threat to herself or others.
The Postal Service rejected the first medical documentation Miller's doctor provided on June 3, claiming it failed to state she posed no threat to the workplace. That medical documentation stated Miller "has never been a threat to herself or others in the past and that is certainly not suggested in the FMLA forms."
Miller was eventually allowed to return to work on June 10, after her doctor provided further medical certification to satisfy the Postal Service's demands.
In his November 18, 2003 decision, Judge Young Kim decided postal officials had no objective evidence from which to form a "reasonable belief" that Miller may have posed a direct threat to herself or others simply because she had an impairment and called in sick.
The Rehabilitation Act requires work-related medical certification to be "job related and consistent with business necessity." Judge Kim ruled the Postal Service fell far short of meeting that standard in the Miller case.
"The only information the attendance monitor had at the time of the medical inquiry was that the Complainant was suffering from depression and anxiety and that her condition was covered by FMLA," Judge Kim wrote in his Summary Judgment in favor of Miller.
"The attendance monitor did not have any objective evidence, other than the diagnosis itself, from which to draw an inference that the Complainant may pose a threat to herself or to others. In fact, the attendance monitor was merely following the Agency's leave policy which required that when an employee is returning to duty after an absence for a mental condition, she must submit a physician's certification that she is fit for duties without hazard to herself or to others. As such, requiring the Complainant to submit medical certification before being able to return to work was in violation of the Act because the Agency did not have a reasonable belief that she posed a direct threat to herself or to others due to her mental impairment."
A hearing is set for December 5, 2003 to discuss what the recommended award should be in the case.
Linda K. Miller v. John Potter
EEOC No. 230-2003-04087X
Agency No. 1-J-487-0024-02
by Dan Sullivan
STALKING HORSE FOR PRIVATEERS
In a December 13 statement to its employees, the Postal Service denied charges that the recently named presidential postal commission has a pre-ordained agenda to privatize the nation's mail system.
In a story headlined "Misconstrued by the media," postal flacks reported "the presidential commission on USPS isn't charged with privatizing the Postal Service."
The report on USPS News Online says the appointment of the commission "is consistent with — and complementary to — the USPS Transformation Plan," and quotes Peter Fisher, Under Secretary of the Treasury for Domestic Finance, as saying, "Our goal is not to privatize the Postal Service."
Yet the Transformation Plan itself questions long held public assumptions about the need for government sponsored universal mail service and proposes three possible phases of transformation: incremental operational and administrative improvement, moderate legislative reform and finally privatization, or what it euphemistically calls "structural transformation."
The Transformation Plan acknowledges "transformation of a large institution is likely to take place one step at a time. It is logical, therefore, to think of these phases as sequential."
The end result is the same, though: privatization.
The Transformation Plan contains an endorsement of President George W. Bush's Management Agenda for 2002, which it says, "could have been addressed to the Postal Service."
It quotes from the report: "We must have a Government that thinks differently, so we need to recruit talented and imaginative people to public service... We'll establish a meaningful system to measure performance. Create awards for employees who surpass expectations. Tie pay increases to results. With a system of rewards and accountability, we can promote a culture of achievement through the Federal Government."
Bush recently announced plans to transform the federal work force by cutting it in half and privatizing many government services and operations.
The USPS Transformation Plan echoes the president's attack on the federal workforce by stating postal labor problems "can be seen as part of a broader pattern of human capital shortcomings that have eroded mission capabilities across the federal government."
The Transformation Plan envisions pseudo-collective bargaining similar to the "Railway Labor Act," which would deny postal workers the right to go to arbitration when contract talks fail.
The makeup of the president's postal commission is a stacked deck. Its members are overwhelmingly drawn from the corporate and business world. Its appointed ‘labor' representative is the president of an organization of New York prison guards which doesn't belong to the AFL-CIO, who endorsed Republican George Pataki in last year's gubernatorial race. There is no consumer advocate on the commission to represent the interests of the general mailing public.
The commission is a stalking horse for supporters of privatization and certainly will recommend that Congress curtail bargaining rights currently enjoyed by postal workers and at least an incremental form of privatization.
The media is getting it right when it says the postal commission is trying to find ways to privatize the Postal Service. The president's postal commission is really a postal privatization commission regardless of what Potter call it.
or not, PMG Award still looks like chump change
by Dan Sullivan