U.S. Postal Service supervisors who have evidence that an employee is abusing sick leave may place the employee on restricted sick leave or use the deems documentation desirable option (deems desirable). When using restricted sick leave, supervisors must provide written notice to employees that their names have been added to the restricted sick leave list and, until further notice, the employee must support all requests for sick leave with medical documentation or other acceptable proof of sickness.

The employee must also provide medical documentation if their supervisor chooses the deems desirable option; however, the supervisor is not required to notify the employee that they have selected this option. The supervisor makes this selection in the Postal Service’s Human Resources automated database — Enterprise Resource Management System (eRMS), which prompts employee notification that documentation is required for their unscheduled sick leave.

This report responds to a request from Congressman Emanuel Cleaver II of the 5th District of MO to review an allegation that management at the Kansas City Processing and Distribution Center (P&DC) used the deems desirable option for a maintenance employee for no apparent reason. We also reviewed the sick leave for maintenance employees at the Kansas City Network Distribution Center (NDC) because it had a high percentage of maintenance employees (18 percent) for whom management required documentation for all leave requests in fiscal year (FY) 2015.

Our objective was to assess the management of maintenance employees’ sick leave at the Kansas City P&DC and NDC in the Mid-America District.

What the OIG Found

Maintenance supervisors at the P&DC and NDC did not effectively manage maintenance employees’ sick leave use. Specifically, during FYs 2013 through 2015, 159 maintenance employees at both facilities used excessive sick leave totaling 16,149 hours. The Postal Service does not quantify excessive or abusive sick leave; therefore, we computed excessive sick leave as 25 percent or more above the average sick leave hours.

To manage sick leave, supervisors used the deems desirable option instead of restricted sick leave for 90 of the 159 maintenance employees (57 percent). They did not use restricted sick leave or select the deems desirable option for the remaining 69 employees (43 percent).

This occurred because supervisors were unaware of the purpose of restricted sick leave and had different views of what represented abusive sick leave. In addition, supervisors at the P&DC stated they arbitrarily selected the deems desirable option because they had limited time to review employee attendance.

Management may choose the deems desirable option; however, it does not provide the same level of fairness, transparency, and corrective measures as restricted sick leave. Restricted sick leave includes employee reviews and discussions, notification of placement on restricted sick leave, and a 90-day review with removal, if warranted.

Without adequately managing sick leave use, management cannot identify possible abuse or implement corrective action to reduce it. As a result, management incurred unnecessary sick leave costs of $335,486 for 11,305 excessive sick leave hours during FYs 2014 and 2015. In addition, the Postal Service could save at least $157,915 by reducing unnecessary sick leave for FY 2016.

Additionally, management improperly chose the deems desirable option for 95 of 166 maintenance employees (57 percent) because these employees’ unscheduled leave usage in the prior 90-day period showed they did not take any leave or took an average of 2 days or less.

Management stated they found a pattern of unscheduled leave in conjunction with scheduled days off, holidays, and sporting events and anticipated these employees would request unscheduled leave for the deems desirable option dates. We found, however, that none of these employees took leave for the specified deems desirable option dates or showed a pattern of leave abuse for the 90-day period preceding the designated deems desirable option dates.

This occurred because the current deems desirable policy (unlike the restricted sick leave policy) does not require supervisors to review employee leave usage in the prior 90-day period or notify employees placed on the deems desirable option.

Using the deems desirable option for employees who have not taken leave or do not have a history of abusing leave may lower employee morale, which could affect productivity and operations and lead to increased employee grievances and associated costs.

What the OIG Recommended

We recommended the district manager, Mid-America District, implement a consistent process for supervisors to effectively reduce excessive sick leave use (including the use of restricted sick leave), develop a standard operating procedure providing guidance for when and how to use the deems documentation desirable option in eRMS, and notifying employees regarding the selection of the option.

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Comments (1)

  • anon

    I think the postal service needs to do a better job of reviewing those that abuse their sick leave. Some keep using it time after time just so they can be off on particular days. Maybe they can use a chart that shows when people use their sick leave so they can see a pattern being developed

    Oct 02, 2016