Background

The U.S. Postal Service has an obligation to ensure the safety of its employees by creating and maintaining a violence-free work environment. Workplace violence can occur at or outside of a postal facility while an employee is working and can range from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and homicides.

Postal Service employees who have been assaulted can notify their manager, file a formal Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) complaint or grievance with the Postal Service, notify internal law enforcement organizations [(U.S. Postal Inspection Service or the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General (OIG)] or contact the local police.

The Postal Inspection Service investigates assaults and threats against employees, while the OIG investigates allegations of hostile work environment and sexual harassment. Either can pursue criminal charges or refer the case to the Postal Service for further action. The Postal Service administers administrative action, such as letters of warning, suspensions, or removals as appropriate.

The Postal Service established the Workplace Environment Tracking System (tracking system) as its national repository for workplace environment incidents to analyze data, identify trends and develop preventive measures. On July 8, 2013, the Postal Service issued a memorandum instructing all headquarters, area, and district offices to use its tracking system when managing workplace violence cases starting August 1, 2013.

In addition, threat assessment teams are required in each district to respond to and assess violent situations; and advise employees on what to do in the event they witness or are victims of violent behavior. The Postal Service requires facilities to display workplace violence posters and publications in postal facilities.

On March 13, 2015, the Postal Service responded to a congressional inquiry by describing the measures it takes to prevent sexual assault and harassment of its employees. In addition, Congress requested the number of sexual assaults and outcomes reported by Postal Service employees for 2013 and 2014.

Subsequent to the Postal Service’s response, members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform requested that we review the Postal Service’s workplace violence program and validate the Postal Service’s March 2015 response.

Our objectives were to evaluate whether the Postal Service adequately identified, reviewed, reported, and addressed employee assaults; and to validate the Postal Service’s response to Congress. Our audit covers workplace violence incidents that occurred from September 1, 2013, through September 2, 2015, a period during which the Postal Inspection Service recorded 789 workplace violence cases nationwide.

What the OIG Found

The Postal Service has a comprehensive workplace violence program to identify, review, report, and address employee assaults nationwide. The Postal Service and Postal Inspection Service appropriately addressed all workplace violence cases in the six selected districts reviewed. In these districts, the Postal Inspection Service investigated 145 cases, 60 of which involved Postal Service employees as assailants. The Postal Service imposed administrative actions, including suspensions and notices of removal, in all 60 cases, as required.

However opportunities exist to enhance the workplace violence program. Specifically, Postal Service officials did not always record all incidents of workplace violence in the tracking system, effectively use threat teams to review assault outcomes and develop preventive measures, and display all workplace violence posters and publications used to educate employees on identifying and reporting workplace violence incidents in postal facilities.

These and other issues occurred in the six districts we reviewed because:

  • District Human Resources managers responsible for maintaining the tracking system database did not ensure responsible officials entered assault complaints into the tracking system as required. In addition, the policy does not give specific instructions regarding the deadline for doing so.
  • There were no controls to ensure that threat assessment team activities were completed, including required training.
  • Facility managers were not fully aware of the requirements to display workplace violence posters and were not required to check periodically that all workplace violence posters were displayed.

The Postal Service was responsive to Congress by providing information regarding how they prevent and respond to workplace violence incidents in reporting 68 employee sexual assaults that resulted in EEO complaints. However, all sexual assaults do not result in EEO complaints. As such, the Postal Service did not report 10 sexual assault cases investigated by the Postal Inspection Service for the period October 1, 2012, through December 1, 2014. Although the Postal Service qualified its response as pertaining only to EEO complaints, the inclusion of related Postal Inspection Service cases would have provided a more complete response.

Further, the Postal Service could not rely on the tracking system as a central repository for sexual assault data because officials were not always recording the data in the tracking system, as required. To gather complete data for its response to Congress, the Postal Service should have reviewed the tracking system, EEO complaints, and Postal Inspection Service cases.

As a result of these conditions, there is an increased risk the Postal Service will not effectively analyze data and identify trends to address workplace violence incidents. Furthermore, without a single accurate source of data in this critical area of employee safety, it is more difficult to determine where problems exist and develop preventive measures.

What the OIG Recommended

We recommended management establish additional controls to ensure that responsible officials enter workplace violence cases into the tracking system; and that threat assessment teams comply with established guidelines, ensure personnel are adequately trained on the tracking system and threat assessment team responsibilities, and conduct periodic reviews to ensure all required posters and publications are displayed.

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Comments (9)

  • anon

    Thank you for your comments to our 2016 Postal Service Workplace Violence Program Audit Report. Though our work on this specific audit report has ended and we have closed the comment section on this page, the Office of Inspector General makes it a priority to investigate reports of workplace violence. To file an official complaint with our office, please click on the "Report Fraud, Waste, and Abuse" red button at the top right of this page. If you feel you this is an emergency situation, please call 9-1-1. Thank you again, OIG Audit Team.

    Feb 14, 2018
  • anon

    Hello I work at the Westland post office as a carrier, How do I take care of situation when My co worker try to find ways start confusion with another employees that involves me at another post office. I ask the employees why was she trying to make trouble.. but her response wasn’t very clear How do you stop taunting , bullying,etc.disrepectful workers. How do management deals with certain circumstances? How can when make the post office a safe environment and to remind them that this a place of business?

    Feb 13, 2018
  • anon

    On Friday June 16, 2017 a carrier used profanity at me and again in front of Manager. I asked her to call the postal inspectors she did not. No assessment was made by my Manager about threat level. I asked to speak to the Postmaster and as of yet been unable to speak with her. This carrier in the past has yelled at me. No action or evaluation of his action has taken place.

    Jun 23, 2017
  • anon

    Hi Doug, and thanks for your message. The best thing to do would be to file an online complaint with our Hotline through this website. You can do this by clicking the red button at the top righthand corner of this page which reads "Report Fraud, Waste, and Abuse." This will allow us to look into the matter for you. Very Respectfully, The USPS Office of Inspector General

    Jun 23, 2017
  • anon

    Why is the USPS environment out of control!? you have Supervisors that have no training or experience how to manage and are not aware of any policies and laws that promote positive work floor policies, Management accepts all violence by supervisors to employees for number and forcing CCA's to be manipulated and abused. If you do not return on time after your route you are threatened and punished up to termination. This is accepted by middle upper management throughout the USPS Harassment is unwelcome verbal or physical conduct, which is so severe or pervasive that it interferes with or changes the conditions of one's employment by creating a hostile, intimidating, or abusive working environment. Examples may include, but are not limited to, making offensive or derogatory comments or engaging in physically threatening, intimidating or humiliating behaviorbaseduponrace, color, religion, sex(includinggender identityandgender stereotypes), national origin, age, mental or physical disability , sexual orientation, genetic information, or in reprisal for an employee or applicant's complaint about or opposition to discrimination or participation in any process or proceeding designed to remedy discrimination. These activities are prohibited by Postal Service® policy and may amount to harassment in violation of federal anti-discrimination laws. Violation of this policy may result in disciplinary action up to and including termination. The Postal Service® is committed to providing its employees a safe, productive, and inclusive workplace and will tolerate nothing less or behavior that creates a sustained hostile or abusive work environment so severe or pervasive that it unreasonably interferes with or changes the conditions of one's employment. Although not every instance of inappropriate behavior may fit the legal definition of harassment, such behavior in the workplace undermines morale and violates the Postal Service's standards of conduct. Disciplinary action may result even if the conduct does not constitute harassment under the law Management Responsibility All managers and supervisors are responsible for preventing harassment and inappropriate behavior that could lead to illegal harassment, and must respond promptly when they learn of any such conduct. Any manager or supervisor who receives a complaint must see that a prompt and thorough investigation IS conducted. Investigations of all forms of harassment must be done In accordance with the "Initial Management Inquiry Process (IMIP)." Materials are available in Publication 552, Manager's Guide to Understanding Investigating, and Preventing Harassment. When harassment or inappropriate conduct is found, managers must take prompt and effective corrective action

    May 18, 2017
  • anon

    I agree I have not been at Usps long and have been threatened numerous times as a CCA I have been told and trained by HQ one way and the smaller branches train you differently. Mind you that the academy is to help HQ properly train employees for usps by usps workers. My postal supervisor made it clear that I my not look forward to attending any medical appointments to maintain my health. Thats just the starting comments that go on. I notice that there are employees hazing the temp CCAs and management think that’s ok. Your 90 day evaluation is a reflection on your work ethics. But as a hired full time employee they require you to wait on a call When you’re not scheduled to work and if you don’t answer then you my be subject to termination. I’m always wanted to work for usps but now know that my life is at stake because of my coworkers and the jobs that are virtually impossible to keep. Hope to find something else, because a healthy work life a Usps is a dream.

    Jan 04, 2018
  • anon

    Thanks for your message. The best thing to do would be to file an online complaint with our Hotline through this website. This will allow us to look into the matter for you.

    May 18, 2017
  • anon

    Management causes the Hostile Work environment and then removes employee for filing grievance on Hostile work environment. If Management would have done there job Hostile work environment would NOT be present!

    Apr 21, 2017
  • anon

    How can supervisors be allowed to yell across the workroom floor and treat their employees with no respect? How can supervisors threaten to write you up over false accusations? How can supervisors retaliate when they dont get their way? Are they held accountable for creating a hostile work environment? What can be done about this?

    Dec 17, 2016