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 (33)

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  • anon

    Has the leave extended til Dec 30th?

    Oct 24, 2021
  • anon

    Caught it on 6 October no COVID leave state of Va said I could go back to work on 15th, 10 day stay home, same as CDC, but the Post office nurse said 14 days, why the difference and I’ve been fine since the 10th, oh also had shots, lot of good they did. Would love to know why there are two standards now when I want to work but was told we had to follow state standards with the masks and they want to know why no one trusts or believes the information. Just had to get off chest.

    Oct 18, 2021
  • anon

    I was working out of Allentown Post Office at 1000 Postal Road and we were required to wear mask inside of the building at all times. When I was out in public I didn't see any postal carriers wearing mask nor any gloves while delivering the mail. I'm unsure of what is covered under COV-19 pay from employer all I know is that if an employee's hour's are reduced because of reasons related to COV-19 they can file for PUA benefits. If an employee is subjected to self Corintine for any amount of time they can collect PUA benefits up until they return to work if they don't return to work then they'll be able to keep collecting there PUA benefits. Just be sure! to give notice of your return to work. As far as paychecks I'm still waiting on my paycheck from the 2nd week.

    Oct 10, 2021
  • anon

    This is bs Covid is still going on wtf they just want to kill us and replace us

    Oct 05, 2021
  • anon

    The USPS should be ashamed of themselves. I was forced to come back to work with positive Covid test no symptoms a week later 4 coworkers test positive. This agency is a failure and the NALC allows it.

    Oct 04, 2021
  • anon

    Would love to know how postal workers are out on covid quarantine, but are not quarantined. Instead they are out and posting public pictures on social media and mocking your system. I have proof. U should make examples of these employees, instead of taking benefits away from employees that need it.

    Oct 04, 2021
  • anon

    I understand from this article that I am responsible for using my own sick leave because the Post Office was not able to handle administrative tasks? I was diagnosed on 10/1/2021 and must drain my own leave. All while the pandemic is in full bloom. I feel betrayed.

    Oct 01, 2021
  • anon

    I was diagnosed with Covid yesterday, September 28, 2021. My job notified me that I would only be paid until September 30. Is that true? Why am I not covered for the full 10 days I am required to be out of work with Covid? I contracted Covid before September 30.

    Sep 29, 2021
  • anon

    If someones quarantine starts 2 days before September 30, 2021 can they still continue to get paid past September 30, 2021 for Covid leave?

    Sep 28, 2021
  • anon

    EFIL LEAVE expires September 30, 2021 what happens if a person get covid after that date schools just opened back up and it’s more covid cases now for children in school then it was with them being out. A child in my child’s class tested positive that my child was around now my Child has to Quarantine until October 4, 2021 but the leave ends Thursday. It’s unfair that the leave has to stop just when kids go back to school.

    Sep 27, 2021
  • anon

    Iv applied multiple times for emergency federal leave and every time my paperwork is either missed placed. My management team are not the best

    Sep 25, 2021
  • anon

    I was out for covid from sep,4 2021 thru sep 18,2021 I was told by my supervisor covid pay is no longer available.

    Sep 24, 2021
  • anon

    Mine told me that as well. Is that true?

    Oct 02, 2021
  • anon

    I tested positive for covid January 30,2021. Therefore I was off using my own sick leave. I used a total of 80 hours. Will I be able to get my sick leave days back?In article it states that liberal leave was allowed, but I was forced to use my own leave.

    Sep 20, 2021
  • anon

    I am appalled at this report. I have been scared to death of catching Covid. Everyday I masked up wore gloves and in March was vaccinated I have underlying medical issues that I knew if I was to get Covid I would be in real bad shape. There was only 4 of us that I am aware of that were vaccinated and masked up. Everybody else thought it was no big deal. Well, I’m a PTF and there is one more in my office she and her husband were diagnosed with Covid. Three days later I started feeling sick achy just not right sure enough I was diagnosed with positive Covid. I had the transfusion very sick. I filled out the paperwork for the Covid pay and I am only getting 28 hrs a week and told if they ran out I would have to pay this back. I have been so sick that now my dr is having to send me to a cardiologist because they think the Covid affected my heart. I am single self supporting and I am really not able to return to work per my dr but I can not afford to lose everything I have. I had to go to the community action for assistance in paying my utilities and rent. But there are workers out there that are drawing this money do not have Covid and getting by with it because they are tight with supervisors. I on the other hand can’t draw full amount having to ask for help and having to go back to work too soon because I can’t get assistance and pay my bills while others are getting money without having Covid and refusing to vaccinate. Does this make sense to anybody else?

    Sep 17, 2021
  • anon

    So is it true that you will get paid 2 weeks off even if you test NEGATIVE? I am so sick of my husband not able to get his x-day off but his aux-route counterpart has now received like 160 hours worth of COVID pay and never had it...now threatening to sue if she has to be mandated to have a vaccine. YIKES, that is no kind of way to run a business. In the meantime - off to Walmart, baseball games, school functions. My husband had an accident in November and was off for 6 weeks using PTO, and this part-timer is having the time of her life. WOW way to reward loyalty.

    Sep 14, 2021
  • anon

    I tested positive for covid last Tuesday. The quarantine time is 10. I am scheduled to return to work on Friday but I don’t feel comfortable returning to work due to dizziness. If I return to work and am not able to perform my duties will I still be able to use the covid leave?

    Aug 31, 2021
  • anon

    Well I work in one of the Miami/Opa-locka plants and they chose not to pay employees the child care time if you was on any tour other than tour 2. The union wrote to OPM and they never replied back. Some people have been out for 3 or more months with no pay because they had no child care in the evening due to this pandemic. No one is doing anything about it.

    Aug 30, 2021
  • anon

    I submitted the proper medical documentation for Covid-19 pay. However, I requested the wrong type of leave. I requested annual leave in lieu of emergency sick leave. I was paid annual leave which was the wrong type of leave. As a result, I was billed by Eagan Accounting Service for the USPS to reimburse them for the annual leave that I was paid. I paid the USPS back in full. Then I was hit with another bill for $809.55 in taxes the USPS claim to have paid to the IRS for the Covid-19 leave paid to me. Again, I reimbursed the USPS in full and paid the $809.55 in taxes. I just received another bill for $400. I have requested a copy of the invoice from the IRS for $809.55 tax bill Eagan claims to have paid. I did not get a response. I want to know where all my money is going. Once I re-paid the USPS, I would think any money paid to IRS would by the USPS would be refunded to the USPS. I filed a complaint with the US Department of Labor Wage Hour Division. Moreover, the USDOL/WHD has communicated to the USPS that I was entitled to receive 80 hours of pay for leave pursuant to the FFCRA and they should pay me. The USPS has been dragging their feet to pay me. I have been in a protracted battle with the Chicago District to correct the mistake and make an adjustment to my account since February 2021. The USDOL/WHD seems to be having trouble getting the Chicago District to make the proper adjustment since February 2021 as well. I sent the manager a corrected Form 3971. The manager refused to make the adjustment. The manager works out of the station in zip code 60616. I would like to have this investigated so that I can receive proper credit and Covid-19 pay under the correct code. I would also like my money paid for taxes and fees if any refunded.

    Aug 28, 2021
  • anon

    They don’t care, they don’t even read these comments. We were all forced to work through this shitshow while they worked from home. We expose ourselves daily to total strangers and coworkers with questionable hygiene habits. Nothing is enforced, it’s all lip service so they can tell the public WE CARE.

    Oct 10, 2021
  • anon

    Why hasn't there been an incentive offered to employees that have gotten the COVID vaccines as other employers have offered or give since we are considered "essential workers"? Also some craft employees and managers and/or supervisors have also worked relentlessly throughout the pandemic, and no one has suggested or offered any of us anything for our efforts. Yet, we continue to allow loop holes for some employees to get paid without using their leave and stay home. Meanwhile, we are working those that come to the bone and trying to continue to push the mail service the best way we can. When are we going to get some compensation and appreciation?

    Aug 21, 2021
  • anon

    If you have blue cross blue shield you can submit a copy of your vaccine card showing you got both of the shots and get $50.

    Aug 27, 2021
  • anon

    I notify manger that my child had tested positive for Covid and send him proof of test. He said my hours and pay would be adjusted since they used up all my annual and sick leave. Still to this day I have not been paid. I contact union which haven't done anything to help they told that manger said that I never turn in any Doc I resend everything to Manger and to the Union lady and no response regarding the adjustment

    Aug 19, 2021
  • anon

    They also violated the FFCRA by using up all of my sick leave and annual leave before paying the FFCRA benefit.

    Aug 18, 2021
  • anon

    It has come to my attention, some letter carriers are taking advantage of the American Rescue Plan to opt out of work using the leave guarantees under the plan for baby sitting.

    Aug 13, 2021
  • anon

    There are people that are really sick like I am that are using this service to maintain their bills and their family livelihood. Because you can't tell somebody that they're not sick covid covid affects everybody differently I've been out of work for almost 2 months because I can't get this stuff out of my chest so don't tell me that I'm just making up not wanted to work I wanna go back to work because I'm getting tired of being here stuck in a house not being into doing anything so don't say that people I had just given the money for nothing cause trust me it's not from nothing.

    Oct 13, 2021
  • anon

    How much leave can I take if I was exposed to someone who tested positive and how many times can I take the leave. And what documents do I need to show.

    Aug 11, 2021
  • anon

    How do we get covid relief hours if we had a reaction to the vaccine? I was off for 4 days because I had headaches and a fever. Management doesn't know the process.

    Aug 03, 2021
  • anon

    In our building mid-fl has no AC running in the evening t-1 only a few fan, poor Air circulation we have 30 case's of covid-19- delta, I personally worked around those was positive and wasn't Notify by nurse or management to stay home. I reported to work normally which other can be spreading it to others that is vaccine or not.

    Jul 20, 2021
  • anon

    I totally agree, USPS did not follow the guidelines. I am retired now, I retired earlier than planned because of the USPS put us in constant danger of contracting COVID. During the original outbreak, a maintenance worker that cleaned our cases, A clerk that had done carrier check out, going to each carrier and having contact with each carrier the same day she went out with COVID, and both of our delivery supervisors went out on the same day, and we were told " all I can say is they are on emergency leave for the next 2 weeks. No one was tested, no one was Quarantined, and the mask mandate was only enforced when someone complained, and that only lasted a couple of days before going right back. I do understand their predicament of maintaining the workforce. But not by putting the workforces lives in danger.

    Aug 18, 2021
  • anon

    Management is not concerned with covid issues. The direction or assistance to aid employees facing the pandemic is null, and sometimes totally void. They (mngmnt) continuously disguise the-much needed info - with stand-ups regarding mostly mundane issues. I have never received any information I need from anyone I work with, employees, supervisors, or management. I then find myself on video number 19- “how to find Usps employee rights”, via YouTube, which is right about when I usually give up. the website??? That’s a whole other issue. Your time is appreciated nonetheless, Yours truly, Yolanda

    Jun 20, 2021
  • anon

    It’s a shame you have to grieve the leave because many of us with child, quarantined, and sick never received the EFEL pay after having documentation including OHNA advising us to quarantine.

    Jun 18, 2021
  • anon

    I agree. My child was sick last week and then I got ut missing 2 weeks of scheduled work and not getting any compensation for either; after running myself to death for the past year keeping them caught up and never missing a day during a the shut downs. I'm done!

    Aug 04, 2021