Objective

Our objective was to assess the Postal Service’s management of its employees’ use of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).

In March 2020, the president declared COVID-19 pandemic to be a national emergency and signed the FFCRA into law, creating two new types of leave:

  • Up to 80 hours of emergency paid sick leave for specific qualifying reasons.
  • Public health emergency leave, which amended the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to allow employees to take up to 12 weeks of leave for an additional qualifying reason related to the closure of a child’s school or place of care.

The FFCRA was effective from April 1 through December 31, 2020. Any leave taken prior to April 1, 2020, remained subject to Postal Service rules in place at that time. The legislation was intended to ensure that workers were not forced to choose between their paychecks and public health measures. On April 7 and May 22, 2020, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) released employee leave provisions of the FFCRA.

Although the FFCRA expired on December 31, 2020, the Postal Service continued to allow liberal leave usage for employees who had a sickness related to COVID‑19. On March 11, 2021, the American Rescue Plan Act was signed into law. This Act is similar to the FFCRA in that it created a new type of leave. Effective March 12, 2021, and continuing through September 30, 2021, the American Rescue Plan Act provides employees with up to 600 hours of paid leave. The OPM issued guidance on using the new leave authority on April 29, 2021.

The Postal Service faced significant unforeseen and uncontrollable challenges due to the COVID‑19 pandemic, including higher package volumes, employee absenteeism, employee safety, and unanticipated expenses.

Since reporting its first confirmed COVID‑19 case in February 2020, the Postal Service took several quick, decisive actions focused on employee safety, including:

  • Creating the COVID‑19 Command Response Team at Postal Service Headquarters.
  • Providing personal protective equipment, enhancing daily procedures, and updating the layout and operations of facilities to mitigate the risk of employees contracting or spreading COVID‑19.
  • Creating a centralized website for employees with COVID‑19 instructions and guidance.
  • Developing agreements with the unions for additional paid leave for some non-career employees.

Findings

While we recognize the challenges facing the Postal Service during the pandemic, we identified three areas of improvement for future implementation of leave administration because of the Postal Service’s management of COVID‑19 leave under FFCRA.

First, facility managers did not always maintain a completed Postal Service (PS) Form 3971, Request for Notification of Absence, or the additional required documentation to support emergency paid sick leave and expanded FMLA. We found 185 of 192 (96 percent) randomly sampled employees were either missing documentation or documentation was not properly completed.

The 185 employees accounted for over $900,000 in unsupported COVID‑19 leave costs.

COVID‑19 pandemic challenges prevented Postal Service facility managers from consistently following the procedures regarding the authorization of employees using COVID‑19-related leave. By not having appropriate supporting documentation to substantiate that employees were on authorized leave, we estimated the Postal Service’s unsupported COVID‑19 leave costs nationwide totaled $12.4 million.

Second, the Postal Service responded to the FFCRA by providing guidance to its supervisors and configuring the payroll systems to ensure employees were paid properly. However, the Postal Service was not always able to accurately track the rural carriers’ COVID‑19 administrative time because the payroll system was limited in the number of leave codes available within the administrative leave category.

Third, the Postal Service was not always able to monitor FFCRA leave limits. Employees who used COVID‑19-related leave did not always comply with FFCRA guidelines. There were nearly 12,000 instances of employees who exceeded COVID‑19-related leave limits. Specifically, the Postal Service identified and made over 8,300 payroll adjustments for employees who exceeded COVID‑19‑related leave limits. We found nearly 3,600 additional employees who still needed payroll adjustments because they exceeded leave limits.

Although the Postal Service began automating payroll system controls in July 2020, it did not fully implement controls until September 2020, nearly five months after the FFCRA was effective. Instead, facility supervisors were instructed to manually review FFCRA employee leave limits.

COVID‑19 and the corresponding FFCRA were unexpected and unusual occurrences. However, with the American Rescue Plan Act and potential for future legislation related to COVID‑19, or with the occurrence of other unexpected or unusual events, it is critical for the Postal Service to ensure consistent communication on the importance of policy requirements and system flexibility to prevent the same or similar issues from reoccurring.

Recommendations

We recommended management:

  • Reiterate to managers and supervisors at all levels the importance of policy requirements to manage and document leave, including pandemic‑related leave.
  • Modify the system to allow for all employees to digitally complete PS Form 3971.
  • Modify the payroll systems or develop another methodology for accurate recording of administrative leave for rural carriers.
  • Reiterate Postal Service policy to all employees for consistent, nationwide application for monitoring leave to not exceed allowable leave limits.

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Comments (106)

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  • anon

    I was tested positive for covid back in Jan 22 and my station used my vacation hours. I don't understand why when there is nothing I can do and now I can't use my vacation this year. what can I do?

    May 22, 2022
  • anon

    Had covid Jan. 2022 was NOT told I could still file a workers comp. COP claim. From what I understand It's too late. Working 7 day weeks for 2 months it was difficult to reasearch anything. Over the 2 months paycheck was shorted over $3000 and still no adjustment. So boo hoo USPS.

    Mar 29, 2022
  • anon

    They told someone in my family if you have Covid and are not showing signs of any symptoms it’s ok to work and my whole family is positive seems like they “are really taking care of their employees”. They tried to get them to work while she is positive like who does that!

    Feb 26, 2022
  • anon

    Well it appears that management and employees are confused on how to get paid during your time off due to COVID- so since I found out the hard way and obviously to late hopefully this can help someone else. If you test positive or miss work due to covid file a claim on ecomp.dol--make sure you fill out claim for covid-19 and the ca-7 within 30 days of the "injury". if not you will not get paid. Do not rely on filling out and returning your 3971 leave request to your manager it does absolutely nothing to get you paid. You have to go online. I hope this helps the next person.

    Feb 17, 2022
  • anon

    You have 3 years, not to late. Go to OWCP. I need help, I have a case #from Dept of Labor Just learned yesterday USPS pays 1st 45 days. I don't know what they need or where to send? Don't give up! I'm home with blood clots.

    Mar 18, 2022
  • anon

    Well this is all hilarious. I have been exposed to the virus and my supervisor told me I can still come to work as long as I show no symptoms. So much for quarantine!

    Feb 01, 2022
  • anon

    Yes this is like a joke. They don't care about people working for them.

    Mar 21, 2022
  • anon

    So much for a federal government job I have to be off work with no pay because I have covid from Work and there’s nothing in place now for us! But instead the government can find a way to continually to give out money (relief) to unemployed people, I work through covid since it first started over worked hours . Now I have it and it’s like oh we’ll deal with it and your bills not being paid or food to be brought! This is not right!

    Jan 31, 2022
  • anon

    I woke up sick lost my voice, cough, phlegm, low grade fever so I notified my supervisor & stayed home. I got tested & received 2 negative tests I went back to work & was sent home after being there for 7.5 hours & said don’t return for 5 days & there using my leave as health emergency. I never had Covid there is still the common cold. Is this legal to do?

    Jan 26, 2022
  • anon

    Luis. Haven’t got sick in 3 years. I had surgery scheduled for 2/2/2022. Today 1/25/22 tested positive for covic had to cancel my surgery and my supervisor told me that I had to use my own time. Out of the 5 weeks vacation for my surgery I have to use 2 weeks for covic. It’s not fair I didn’t chose covi ,covic choose .at the beginning of the pandemic postal workers were getting 80 hours covic releave.what happened to the rest of us who didn’t get sick . We are not worth anything to the postal service because we didn’t get sick at the beginning of the pandemic. We were call heroes because we showed to work when they needed us the most.now I feel like s _ _ t .is there anything I cando. Need this 2 weeks vacation for my surgery in March. Please advice. Thanks

    Jan 25, 2022
  • anon

    I just got the booster shot....and im starting to feel bad (chills so far)....if i still feel ill by my next scheduled work day (wed) what can i do since the pandemic leave is over??

    Jan 25, 2022
  • anon

    This is so crazy I been for 2 weeks from Covid and I’m not getting paid this just shows how the Usps doesn’t care about its employees

    Jan 17, 2022
  • anon

    Same here, I can’t prevent myself getting covid and now I’m without a paycheck. What a joke the post office is.

    Jan 24, 2022
  • anon

    Do your non career employees who have no sick leave get paid if they get Covid? My daughter has worked for two years as a non career rural carrier and still had no federal benefits except the standard health insurance availabile to non career employees. She works usually full time especially lately when so many have been out sick with Covid. If she gets Covid and has to stop working will she receive any pay?

    Jan 15, 2022
  • anon

    Nope! Welcome to usps where you work as slaves for people who don’t even have to lift a finger. They don’t care about their workers and it’s very obvious

    Jan 27, 2022
  • anon

    I'm a single mom and after taking care of my mother for a knee surgery, she tested positive when I was supposed to return to work and because I'm "required " to notify my management team; even though I was not sick. I had to take an additional for days off, of which was unpaid; making my monies short for the things I need to care for my children. Why did the leave "expire" for postal employees September 2021 but is still in effect for other federal employees, when we are handling the mail from all over!?

    Jan 13, 2022
  • anon

    I’m pretty sure you can file a workers comp claim and get Continuation of pay. First 3 days no pay that includes your days off if it happened during your days off too

    Feb 05, 2022
  • anon

    This is absolutely insane. I am out for almost an entire pay period and have to use all my sick time. People were allotted up to 600 hours and I personally witnessed the system be abused. Now that we have an actual wave a huge wave so many of us are left screwed out of our own time.

    Jan 12, 2022
  • anon

    I agree it is messed up that they only allowed the leave for a certain time. Now all of us that are just now getting covid are screwed and having to use our own leave.

    Jan 18, 2022
  • anon

    The apwu needs to file grievance for any employee who's out with covid.. management requires you to stay home when sick.. usps has to pay administrative leave for work missed due to covid..

    Jan 11, 2022
  • anon

    This is very upsetting. I was exposed and forced to take leave, even with negative test and no symptoms. Now in order for me to get paid for these last 10 days I must use my vacation pay. That is unfair. Numerous jobs still have covid leave for their employees, from city jobs to the medical field, as a government employee I think we should be entitled to the same benefits.

    Jan 11, 2022
  • anon

    I had Covid in the post office did not pay me

    Jan 11, 2022
  • anon

    I’ve been sick for the past 6 days with Covid 19 and I’ve been trying to find out if I’m going to be getting sick leave pay. So far all I see is that it expired?! Like how is that even okay we are going through a second wave! And we all have to pay bills here! I’ve worked the past couple months off but the usps can’t pay it back

    Jan 10, 2022
  • anon

    What’s crazy is usps employees worked throughout the whole pandemic and even with the spike in covid cases we are being told that the covid pay is over.. schools just opened back up in September and there has been a rise in the number of children getting covid and we are expected to quarantine for 10 days and be ok with not getting paid for those days. You have employees that know they’re positive and still go to work possibly getting others sick because they can’t afford to miss out on 2 weeks worth of pay. I don’t think they care how this is affecting their employees we get paid twice a month and now with being out sick u have to miss out on a whole paycheck

    Jan 05, 2022
  • anon

    I need to know if I'm being paid for catching covid 19 from working at the post office. I'm out for 10 days and I hate missing work, but due to this situation I have no choice but to stay home and isolate. I can't even move into my new home or be around my children. Please follow up with me on the steps I should take about this. I've never had covid so I dont know the protocol. Thanks and have a blessed day.

    Jan 02, 2022
  • anon

    Apply for federal worker’s compensation. OWCP !!! You can get paid for being out from the dept of labor!!!!

    Jan 10, 2022
  • anon

    Covid claim on ecomp website department of labor covid claim has to say that you were in contact with someone at work . That got you infected for the claim to get accepted..

    Jan 27, 2022
  • anon

    I just learned today you have to use your own sick leave or go lwop if you have Covid or even if your kids have Covid. It’s terrible I have my son who might have Covid I will know tomorrow

    Jan 08, 2022
  • anon

    Currently quarantined with Covid, turns out that the “relief” offered to its own (overworked) employees has been expired since September of 2021. So any employee that has, or gets Covid will have to use PTO/sick leave/AL, or in the case if this CCA just not get paid for 10 days. WTF! I didn’t realize USPS magically cured the world from Covid in September of 2021. No wonder half the nation would rather remain unemployed.

    Dec 29, 2021
  • anon

    This is exactly why 50% of your peers remain unemployed. USPS workers never missed a step in serving this entire country. In fact, most of our plates were piled on with additional duties due to increased volume (with no additional compensation). We touched, handled and processed millions of pieces of mail day after day while our peers were encouraged to place these same pieces (of mail) in their garages for 24 hours before sanitizing them to avoid infection. We ran offices open to the entire public and neighborhoods up and down early on with insufficient or no PPE (of course, we were equipped, “ON PAPER”). Today, we still work on, move forward and greet every challenge. Unfortunately, the one federal assistance program the mighty USPS was actually included in -HAS EXPIRED. You are on your own. You are alone. But, as a USPS employee…you already knew that. :)

    Jan 10, 2022
  • anon

    I have over 16 years with the Postal Service. I’m currently at home because my 14 year old daughter tested positive for COVID on Dec 27th after I gave her an at home COVID test. I immediately contacted my supervisor Melanie who is also our active manager. I never been in this situation before. She sent me a screenshot of a COVID Center me and my daughter can go to. We were retested and are waiting on results. I called out for 80 hours Fmla/ dependent care using my own sick leave. On lite blue I’m in lwop status. I have 449 hours of sick leave banked. Carrier Annex Management has a habit of no paying people even with medical documentation. I need to know how can I retrieve sick leave I’ve earned to cover my absence?

    Dec 29, 2021
  • anon

    I have been instructed by my doctor to not return to work until my covid-19 results are available. Can I be compensated through emergency federal employee leave for the time I'm not able to work?

    Dec 29, 2021
  • anon

    My husband has been out of work for 18 days due to long Covid. No one at post office will help. What can he do to get paid for it?

    Dec 27, 2021
  • anon

    I do have a major complaint.. Covid is a continuing and ongoing event ,to this day, 2 years after the first cases it’s still running rampant and people can have this disease more then once .. Yet we were given only 80 hrs of leave which would only be enough to cover 1 case and it’s quarantine that follows.. this does not include quarantine for exposure which has happened to me and many others multiple times since this started . I see why a lot of my co- workers don’t report exposure , because they won’t get paid unless they have their own time to use .. I understand the cost of expanding the paid leave , but in reality without it, it cost the Postal service much more in lost work hours, unscheduled sick calls, undelivered routes, by not offering more of this paid time . People come to work with the virus , spread it to others all because they can’t afford to take time off to quarantine.

    Dec 27, 2021
  • anon

    I do have a major complaint.. Covid is a continuing and ongoing event ,to this day, 2 years after the first cases it’s still running rampant and people can have this disease more then once .. Yet we were given only 80 hrs of leave which would only be enough to cover 1 case and it’s quarantine that follows.. this does not include quarantine for exposure which has happened to me and many others multiple times since this started . I see why a lot of my co- workers don’t report exposure , because they won’t get paid unless they have their own time to use .. I understand the cost of expanding the paid leave , but in reality without it, it cost the Postal service much more in lost work hours, unscheduled sick calls, undelivered routes, by not offering more of this paid time . People come to work with the virus , spread it to others all because they can’t afford to take time off to quarantine.

    Dec 27, 2021
  • anon

    Agree ✅

    Jan 05, 2022
  • anon

    Hey i recently had covid and had to do quarantine for 2 weeks. And I did report this to my manager but i never got an answer on what would be the next step. My question is “is there any pay for cases like this?” And once I was done with quarantine I informed this to my manager too and she has yet called me in to work and its been 1 week already. I’m new and i do not know how this works or anything and nobody says anything or try to help with anything.

    Dec 27, 2021
  • anon

    So RCAs are screwed?! Post office treats its new employees as less than human.

    Dec 26, 2021
  • anon

    I am a new employee as well and I agree with this 100% but then they complain that they cant keep anyone

    Dec 27, 2021
  • anon

    Also was out 2 weeks for covid I turned in the documents and management refused to pay me said the date on the mou was wrong and wasn't December 31st. I feel like I am being betrayed. Maybe I should just risk everyone with covid to get my check so I don't lose my car. SMH hate usps

    Dec 26, 2021
  • anon

    Apparently covid isn't what they say it is or they would stillnbe paying it...right?

    Dec 24, 2021
  • anon

    I am a RCA and I have received notify from my child’s elem school that they will shut down due to a Covid spike that was on 12/17/21. I was told to go home and figure out child care and not to come back until I had it figured out I was home for three days with no pay. Two weeks before that my middle and eldest child were sent home from their school they were exposed and we hd to quarantine they get tested in school weekly now this part….. the person who tested my children was the one who had Covid. Imagine my frustration to find out that the testers are nit even safe they bringing it to the school and I didn’t get paid for those days. Christmas is here. My place of fellowship had a Christmas play for the kids sat 12/18/21 so wine also tested positive which means I’m home again with no pay I advised my post master and she said I needed to be tested and not to return until I can show negative results. With all this being said I still have to be at home with NO PAY!! I say that to say with the spikes and schools closing all over how am I to maintain my job and keep my kids on track. My children don’t return to school come Jan 3 2022 we got email stating that they will be virtual. So what does that mean for me. I should t have to choose between my kids and my job.

    Dec 22, 2021
  • anon

    I’m a regular usps mail carrier and I just got the Covid-19 I’m going to need someone to help me with this I’m in quarantine with my kids now. Let me know what I can do for some help I’m in sa Texas - I’m also in the union what is my best way to get help

    Dec 21, 2021
  • anon

    I was out 13 day with Covid do I get payed. My post master put lwop.

    Dec 21, 2021
  • anon

    I work for the USPS and I've had to quarantine 3 times now due to covid. I have all my documentation from the health dept stating my dates of quarantine I've even told my manager and yet I have NOT been paid one penny for my covid leave time. Why?? The health department told me that they have to pay me but they have NOT. Should I take this to the union??

    Dec 18, 2021
  • anon

    If you are an RCA you have 80 hours of paid leave extended to February 2022. Fill out a PS Form 3971 request for leave....check box Other and on line or comment section write "LC19" and give to post master or supervisor. Talk to your Union Rep as well. Make sure to get a copy of the signed copy that mgmt received it. Unfortunately regular carriers has to use your personal leave you have fill out a leave request as well and they have to accept it you can use your liberal sick or annual or LWOP.

    Jan 10, 2022
  • anon

    Can anyone tell me the length of time it takes/took to recieve thier funds? i was out back in December and turned in the proper paperwork. My supervisor told me it was processed. Also told my union rep that. But its been over 2 months since this was told to me, and over 5 months from submission. And Im getting no real help from my union or mgmt. Is there a way for me to check and follow up or someone i can speak to directly about this for resolution

    May 24, 2022
  • anon

    Did you ever find out if you'll get paid? Or did you get paid? I was told covid pay ended sept. 30 2021. even though it's still spreading like crazy. I have been out of work since October 25 due to covid. I am still going through covid long haul. I haven't been paid at all. My husband was also out of work for 3 weeks due to covid so no income was and still is hard.

    Jan 05, 2022
  • anon

    Lisa m did you end up find out if they will pay you

    Dec 21, 2021
  • anon

    I'm a RLC on covid 19 quarantine, is there a special pay for this type of leave, my PM says I have to use my sick leave. Why am I not being paid from the FFCRA.

    Dec 18, 2021

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