By Leigh Prather /

Postal Service to Ask Justice Dept. to Intervene in Fight to Ban Employees From Taking Time Off to Campaign

USPS will challenge in federal court an arbitrator's decision in favor of unions.

On Thursday, Government Executive reported that the Postal Service lost a union appeal challenging a new policy the agency had implemented to ban its workers from taking unpaid time off to campaign for political candidates.

By Friday morning, the Postal Service announced it was gearing up for a fight. The agency said it would challenge that decision, awarded by a third-party arbitrator, in federal court. It will ask the Justice Department to intervene on its behalf.

"The Postal Service intends to formally request that the United States Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia file a petition in federal court seeking to have the arbitration award vacated,” said Dave Partenheimer, a spokesman for the agency. “We will work closely with the U.S. Attorney's Office, and are also seeking support and additional guidance from the Office of Special Counsel in connection with that effort."

USPS announced its policy change last year, after reports from its inspector general and the Office of Special Counsel—the independent federal agency that oversees enforcement of the Hatch Act—faulted the agency for its leave without pay procedures that enabled employees to take time off to support union-endorsed political candidates in the run up to the 2016 election.

While OSC found the policy created “systemic violations” of the Hatch Act that led to an “institutional bias” in favor of certain candidates, the arbitrator said USPS failed to comply with its collective bargaining agreements in unilaterally issuing new guidance. The arbitrator ruled OSC’s guidance was non-binding and postal management was still required to bargain over the changes.

“I have found the changes to be inconsistent with the agreement, and as such they cannot be fair, reasonable and equitable,” arbitrator Stephen Goldberg wrote in his decision.

Time is of the essence in the challenge, as the American Postal Workers Union has said that Goldberg's decision will enable the employees it represents to take time off to support the union's preferred candidates in the upcoming midterm elections. For full details on the employee political campaigning, the ensuing backlash, the policy changes and arbitration, click here.