This report responds to a request from Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota about employee issues at the Dickinson Post Office. In response to that request, our objectives were to determine whether the U.S. Postal Service complied with employee payment requirements and assess employee engagement and staffing levels at the Dickinson, ND, Post Office.
The Dickinson Post Office is in the Bakken Region of North Dakota. In calendar year (CY) 2006, the region’s oil boom began, peaking in CY 2012. During the oil boom, the region experienced increased employment opportunities, which subsequently contributed to the Postal Service’s challenge of attracting and retaining employees.
In February 2014, the Postal Service entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the National Rural Letter Carriers Association (NRLCA) to assist in attracting and retaining rural carriers.
What the OIG Found
The Postal Service did not comply with employee payment requirements at the Dickinson Post Office; employee feedback indicated employee engagement was low; and the post office is currently at full complement although it has faced challenges attracting and retaining both management and bargaining employees in the past. Specifically, we determined:
- Four of seven (or 57 percent) rural carriers were placed in an incorrect pay status. These carriers received letters of demand and invoices for salary overpayments totaling $23,767.
- Six of 20 (or 30 percent) career rural carriers, who were eligible for a 90-day and/or one-year bonus prescribed in the Postal Service’s MOU with the NRLCA, did not receive their bonuses totaling $5,000.
- One employee was not reimbursed for official travel expenses submitted for 10 travel vouchers totaling about $1,920 for work conducted in support of another Dakotas District post office.
- There is a perception of an unsupportive work environment, no employee recognition, and a lack of communication at the Dickinson Post Office. This may be an indication of low employee engagement, which is a contributor to low employee morale.
These conditions occurred because:
- Human Resources Shared Services Center processing specialists were unaware rural carriers should have been paid from one of four rate schedule code tables. Specialists also indicated they used an incorrect pay step within the rate schedule code table.
- District Human Resources did not have a formal process to timely identify carrier eligibility for bonuses.
- The postmaster did not have access to the Electronic Travel Voucher system and did not forward the employee’s travel voucher to the designated travel coordinator for processing.
- There was an apparent disconnect between Dickinson Post Office management and lack of subsequent actions, and employee concerns and issues.
The Dickinson Post Office had a challenge attracting and retaining employees and subsequently developed a plan to address the rapid changes in population growth and employee turnover. However, due to actions taken by the Dickinson Post Office and the Dakotas District, as of April 2018, there were 40 employees at the Dickinson Post Office — three more than its authorized career complement of 37.
If management does not take appropriate action to ensure that they properly compensate and inform employees, there could be a negative impact on employee engagement, morale, and complement at the Dickinson Post Office.
What the OIG Recommended
We recommended management provide refresher training to Human Resources Shared Services Center processing specialists responsible for processing pay activities on Postal Service Form 50, Notification of Personnel Action, for the Memorandum of Understanding at select Bakken Region facilities, to include verifying employee pay statuses; and implement and communicate a process to timely identify and pay rural carriers.
We also recommended management grant Electronic Travel Voucher system access to the postmaster or designee at the Dickinson Post Office or implement controls to monitor and track reimbursements due when employees submit travel vouchers manually; and develop a strategy, to include management training, to increase employee engagement at the Dickinson Post Office.