APWU Web News Article 068-2010, July 15, 2010
To strengthen the fight against the Postal Service’s harsh National Reassessment Program (NRP), the APWU is encouraging limited-duty and permanent-rehabilitation employees to complete a questionnaire sponsored by a law firm that has filed a class-action complaint against the USPS. The complaint alleges that the NRP discriminates against disabled employees.
The NRP, which was initiated nationwide in 2006, “is part of an aggressive campaign by the Postal Service to reduce costs by denying work to injured employees,” said APWU President William Burrus. “The union has fought the program every step of the way,” he said.
The program has wreaked havoc on affected workers, said Human Relations Director Sue Carney. “Thousands of light-duty and permanent-rehabilitation employees have felt its effects through mandatory NRP interviews or work-status meetings.
“Some received new full-day or partial-day job offers; some were told no work was available; others had their existing job offers renewed, while still more have only experienced Phase 1 of the NRP process. Many more are anxiously awaiting a determination,” she said.
USPS Notifies Members of the ‘Class’
An administrative judge for the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) certified the class-action complaint on May 30, 2008, in the case of Sandra McConnell et al v. United States Postal Service [PDF], which alleges that the USPS discriminated against injured workers on the basis of disability when it implemented the NRP. The complaint charges that the NRP fails to provide reasonable accommodation; creates a hostile work environment; wrongfully discloses medical information, and has an adverse impact on disabled workers.
After certifying the case as a “class action,” the judge ordered the Postal Service to notify all potential class members of the complaint. The USPS did so in letters dated July 1, 2010, which it sent to limited-duty and permanent rehabilitation employees. The letter said that workers are members of the class if they “are or were a permanent rehabilitation or limited duty employee of the Postal Service who was subjected to the NRP between May 5, 2006, and the present.”
The APWU encourages all current and former rehab and limited-duty employees who were subjected to any portion of the NRP to complete the questionnaire, whether or not they received a notice from the USPS that they may be members of the “class.” This will help ensure that the attorneys representing the workers are aware of all potential class members — including those that may have been overlooked by the Postal Service, Carney said.
In accordance with the judge’s order, the USPS letters also notified employees of their legal rights. Potential class members were advised that they are not required to take any action at this time in order to remain a part of the class, or to preserve their right to make a future claim. The notice says that if the administrative judge rules that the Postal Service discriminated against them, they will be notified and given the opportunity to seek any and all remedies provided by law.
The case will determine the rights of class members; any decision will be binding. The EEOC does not allow class members to “opt out” of the class or to choose not to be bound by the decision in the case. If McConnell, the lead complainant, and the USPS choose to settle the case, all class members would be notified of the terms and given an opportunity to object or challenge the settlement.
The parties are currently engaged in the discovery process. Once this process is complete, the administrative judge will set a trial date. The APWU continues to communicate with the lead attorneys and will keep our members apprised of developments as warranted. In the interim, Carney encouraged members to check the NRP Class Action Web site for updates.
In addition to supporting the class-action complaint, the APWU has vigorously protested the program in other forums, she said. “We have filed three Step 4 disputes through the grievance-arbitration procedure , and provided extensive guidance to union members and local and state organizations about how best to fight these attacks.
In addition to pursuing remedies through the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the union has provided information to union members on how to seek justice through OWCP (Office of Workers Compensation), ECAB (Employee Compensation Appeals Board) MSPB (Merit Systems Protection Board), and EEOC, as well as how to file claims for Unemployment Compensation.