By Jeremy M. Lazarus – January 5-7, 2017
Dozens of current and former Richmond (Virginia) mail carriers have received extra payments during the holidays from the U.S. Postal Service, the service has confirmed.
The payments are the latest fallout from a scandal at the Main Post Office on Brook Road that involved supervisors altering carrier time cards – without the carriers’ knowledge – to reduce overtime. The Free Press reported on the scandal just before Thanksgiving.
In response to a Free Press query, USPS spokesman Tom Ouelette stated Wednesday that the payments stem from a settlement “the Postal Service and the National Association of Letter Carriers reached in December.”
“As a result of the settlement, some letter carriers at the Saunders, Bellevue and North Side stations (who work out of the Main Post Office) were entitled to receive additional compensation for the overtime worked,” Mr. Oulette said.
The money ranged from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars, sources told the Free Press.
The USPS Office of Inspector General began a probe of the altered time cards after receiving a grievance from letter carrier Shekeera Greene and four other carriers. The probe led to the dismissal of veteran Richmond Postmaster Howard G. O’Connor and five lower level managers.
A substantial number of the carriers who received the overtime pay deliver mail on one or more residential routes that can require more than eight hours to complete.
Source: Richmond Free Press
How the scandal was exposed:
Shekeera Greene injured her neck while delivering mail in late August.
Documents that helped her prove she was injured on the job have led to the removal of Howard G. O’Connor as postmaster for the Richmond area and the replacement of William Crotzer as manager of carriers at the Main Post Office on Brook Road.
Four others at the Main Post Office who supervise carriers at the Bellevue, Capital, North Side and Saunders post offices also have been replaced.
Sources told the Free Press the removals were related to evidence Ms. Greene provided to the USPS Office of Inspector General showing that supervisors ripped off carriers by changing their time cards to reduce or eliminate overtime pay and that Mr. O’Conner and Mr. Crotzer allegedly condoned the supervisors’ actions.
The Free Press has been told that bonuses for managers and supervisors are tied, in part, to reducing overtime.
Ms. Greene’s injury led to the discovery that supervisors were making unauthorized changes to carriers’ time cards, as the Free Press reported last week, and the intervention of the USPS Office of Inspector General, an internal investigative unit which enforces USPS rules that ban such actions.
Her role as a whistleblower began when she reported her neck injury to the USPS Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs seeking reimbursement for medical treatment and pay for the time she missed while recovering.
She said she received a shocking letter in reply, stating that her claim might not be considered and she might be charged with attempted fraud because “the evidence indicates that you were injured before or after your regular scheduled work hours.”
The OWCP noted Ms. Greene claimed to be injured at 8 p.m. while carrying mail, but the official time records showed “you ended your tour on Aug. 29 at 7 p.m. Please explain.”
That was a big surprise to Ms. Greene, who suffered the agonizing neck pain around 8 p.m. while still delivering mail on Hanover Avenue in The Fan. She said she returned to the Main Post Office after 9 p.m.
So she fought back. With the help of a shop steward, she obtained the official records of her time cards or “clock rings,” which showed that she had clocked out at 9:17 p.m. It also showed a supervisor changed her time card, claiming she had ended her shift at 7 p.m., according to her filing to the Office of Inspector General.
Ms. Greene also obtained time cards for four other carriers who had seen her return to the station after 9 p.m., and those cards also showed tampering by supervisors, according to the filing.
At least three supervisors in Richmond’s Main Post Office appear to routinely change the time cards of letter carriers — without the carriers’ knowledge or permission — in order to reduce their pay.
Documents provided to the Free Press for five carriers show that their digital time cards — called “clock rings” — were altered a collective total of 16 times during a sample period between Aug. 20 and Sept. 2.
Under their contract, letter carriers are to be paid time-and-a-half if they work longer than eight hours in a day. They also are to receive double time if they work more than 10 hours in one day.
Sources said the time reductions are an effort to prevent the carriers from receiving overtime pay.
For example, on Aug. 22, a carrier worked 10½ hours based on the clock-in and clock-out times. But the total hours worked were reduced to 8½ by an unidentified supervisor. The carrier was paid based on the supervisor’s entry on the clock ring.
In another example, a carrier who had recorded working about 10 hours on Aug. 25 had those hours reduced to around 8 hours by an unidentified supervisor whose entry was used in determining the carrier’s pay.
“Most carriers don’t notice or can’t prove their time has been altered because they don’t keep their own detailed records,” one source told the Free Press.
It is unclear how long the practice has been going on and how many carriers have been affected because the documents provide a snapshot of a short period of time.
Sources told the Free Press this is just one example of the problems within the Main Post Office on Brook Road in North Side.
Recently, the Postal Service reinstated and awarded back pay to three Richmond carriers who had been fired for allegedly throwing away mail rather than delivering it. The three were exonerated and the allegations dismissed as false.
In other cases, some carriers have been denied a mandatory $400 uniform allowance, sources said.