A recruiter with the U.S. Postal Service talks to a prospective job candidate. Studies show that low pay is a deterrent to attracting and retaining supervisors at USPS.

A recruiter with the U.S. Postal Service talks to a prospective job candidate. Studies show that low pay is a deterrent to attracting and retaining supervisors at USPS. AP file photo

Postal Supervisors Sue for Better Pay

After the Postal Service largely ignored the non-binding findings of a mediation panel, supervisors sued for retroactive pay increases.

A U.S. Postal Service employee group has sued the mailing agency over its pay system, calling it broken and out of line with an assessment from third-party mediators. 

The National Association of Postal Supervisors filed its lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for D.C. on behalf of the 45,000 supervisors, managers, postmasters and technical specialists that make up its members. NAPS is seeking pay increases that would be mostly retroactive, covering the period from 2016 through 2019. 

The group represents employees covered under the Executive and Administrative Schedule, who are non-bargaining unit workers and operate under a pay-for-performance system. Thirty-eight percent of EAS employees did not receive a pay increase in fiscal 2018 under the current system, according to NAPS President Brian Wagner. 

Last year, a NAPS request led to the creation of a “factfinding panel” through the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. The three-member panel—made up of one individual chosen by the association, one individual chosen by the USPS and one chosen by the other two—found the pay system proposed by the Postal Service failed to meet its statutory requirement that compensation be comparable to the private sector, sufficient to attract and retain supervisors and “sufficiently higher” than the pay provided to the employees they manage. 

The panel specifically called the pay-for-performance system “seriously flawed.” An inspector general report in 2017 found the system was not rewarding top performers, instead collectively punishing employees for the work of their colleagues.

That panel’s decision, however, was non-binding. USPS was required only to give the report “fair consideration” and the agency ultimately rejected the panel’s findings on pay for performance, ensuring an adequate pay gap between supervisors and employees they oversee, locality pay and retroactive pay. The agency agreed to form a work group with NAPS to resolve outstanding differences, but those efforts could not stave off the lawsuit. 

In its suit, NAPS said the “inadequate compensation” USPS called for in its slightly revised pay system “contributes to severe morale problems as well as problems with the attraction and retention of qualified supervisors and managers” and suffers from the same deficiencies and violations of statute as the initial offering. 

Executive and administrative schedule employees are in a unique position, as they are designated as non-bargaining workers and are represented by a management association rather than a union. USPS is still required to engage in a “consultative process” to determine pay for the supervisors and managers, but those employees are not covered under a collective bargaining agreement. NAPS has not filed a lawsuit against the Postal Service since 1974. The group sought mediation in 2012, but the Postal Service largely ignored that panel’s findings as well. 

Wagner said NAPS is still open to meeting with the Postal Service and finding a resolution outside the courtroom. 

“We filed the lawsuit,” Wagner said. “We’re looking for relief from the courts.” If USPS wants to resume talks, however, “We’re all for it.” He added he felt “no choice” but to pursue the legal case due to the Postal Service’s “resistance to the fair administration of the law.” 

Dave Partenheimer, a USPS spokesman, said the agency has already made some concessions during its talks with NAPS. 

"We remain committed to our employees and supervisors, but within the context of our current business reality and financial condition," Partenheimer said. "We will respond to the allegation of the complaint in the appropriate forum, but separately remain committed to our philosophy of working collaboratively with our management associations on a number of important issues that affect their constituents."

In addition to compensation changes, NAPS is seeking the right to represent a larger group of executive and administrative schedule employees.

This story has been updated with comment from the Postal Service.