This story has been updated with a comment from the Postal Service.
The U.S. Postal Service is pushing back against an effort from Congress to give more of its employees external appeal rights on negative personnel actions.
Postmaster General Megan Brennan, in a recent letter to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, raised concerns with giving certain employees access to the Merit Systems Protection Board. The bipartisan leaders of that committee introduced a bill earlier this year that would, as part of its larger USPS reform efforts, give workers on the non-unionized Executive and Administrative Schedule the right to appeal to MSPB.
Brennan said extending the appeal rights to EAS employees -- which covers non-bargaining workers in supervisory, professional, technical, clerical, administrative and managerial positions -- would “raise a number of problems.” She called the provision “unnecessary.”
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In response to her message to Congress, the National Association of Postal Supervisors sent a letter of its own to Brennan, criticizing the postmaster general’s opposition to expanded appeal rights. The stance, NAPS said, ran in direct opposition to views voiced by postal leadership over the last several decades.
“These comments are unhelpful in shaping constructive legislation that ensures fairness for all Postal Service employees as part of a comprehensive postal reform,” NAPS President Louis Atkins said. “I ask you to consider retracting these views in light of the harmful precedent they will set.”
Dave Partenheimer, a USPS spokesman, said the bill could be interpreted to expand MSPB appeal rights to officers who serve at the pleasure of the postmaster general while stripping the added layer of due process from some employees who currently enjoy it. He also echoed Brennan’s claim the provision was superfluous.
“It is unnecessary to extend MSPB appeal rights to additional non-bargaining employees,” Partenheimer said, “because the Postal Service provides a fair and robust internal process for employees who wish to appeal an adverse personnel action through our Employee and Labor Relations Manual, which courts have held provides due process to these employees.”
In 2013, Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., who cosponsored the current postal bill, introduced a standalone measure to provide a “simple legislative fix” to give EAS employees appeal rights. He said at the time his bill would affect 7,500 postal employees. Connolly added the measure would save taxpayer dollars “through the avoidance of costly lawsuits.”
The oversight committee already passed the 2016 Postal Service Reform Act in July. The legislation, introduced by the panel’s chairman, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, has received bipartisan acclaim in Congress but some pushback from various interest groups. The bill reforms the agency’s governance structure, health care for retirees, rate increase process and other changes.
While postal management has some concerns with the House bill, it has not outright rejected it.
“While the bill does not include all of the elements that the Postal Service requested, it is the product of reasonable compromise and represents a significant step toward returning the Postal Service to a position of financial stability that all stakeholders agree is necessary,” the agency said when the measure cleared a markup vote last month. “We look forward to continuing to work with the House and Senate and our stakeholders to get a postal reform bill passed this Congress.”
A senate bill, introduced by Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del. -- which also has bipartisan support but has yet to receive any voting action -- also gives EAS employees MSPB appeal rights.