USPS OIG: Employee Issues at the Dickinson, North Dakota, Post Office

August 14, 2018


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.

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USPS employee shot during attempted carjacking

Tuesday, June 12th 2018, 4:39 pm EDTTuesday, June 12th 2018, 10:28 pm EDTBy StaffConnect

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) – A postal service worker in Memphis was shot Tuesday morning, according to the U.S. Postal Service.

The shooting happened around 10:15 a.m. near the intersection of Overton Crossing Street and Frayser Boulevard.

USPS said a supervisor was on the way to help a mail carrier who had broken down when he became the victim of an attempted carjacking. The injured supervisor was taken to the hospital in non-critical condition.

The shooter(s) drove off in a silver Acura TL.

“It is a random event. We haven’t seen anything like this in Memphis,” Postal Inspector Gregory Newberry said. “It’s still an ongoing investigation into the motive, but it is rather unusual.”

USPS is offering a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the criminal(s).

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USPS OIG: What can be done to get carriers off the street by 5/6 pm?

September 18, 2017

Who doesn’t like finding a package they ordered online on their doorstep at an unexpected time, like, say, late in the evening just before you turn out the porch light for the night?

Consumers have come to expect quick delivery of parcels, often at odd hours of the day. This new paradigm comes at a cost, however. For the U.S. Postal Service, it means their city carriers and non-career city carrier assistants (CCAs) are delivering packages after the targeted return time of 6:00 p.m. Returning late from their routes raises safety concerns — especially when it gets dark earlier —  and overtime costs.

Few are complaining about the ecommerce explosion, mind you. It’s driving a growth in parcels — even as lettermail volumes decline. This package boom, along with a downsizing of the Postal Service workforce and evolving customer needs, have led to changes in the network and delivery. Furthermore, a wide range of variables, such as weather, employee absences, or new carriers to a route, can affect delivery on a daily basis.

All of this poses challenges for the Postal Service in meeting its goal of 95 percent of letter carriers being off the street by 5 p.m. and 100 percent by 6 p.m. Our recent audit of the Bay Valley (CA) District — in the heart of the nation’s ecommerce hub — found that carriers and CCAs fell short of the 100 percent goal by 6 p.m. In calendar year 2016, only 75 percent of carriers returned to the office by 6 p.m., our report said.

Bay Valley certainly is seeing the effects of ecommerce activity, as well as Sunday package delivery, and grocery delivery service: The district had a 16 percent growth in package volume in calendar year 2016 over the previous year, topping 101 million packages. In some areas, package deliveries now regularly occur early in the morning and as late as 10 p.m.

We found a mix of underlying reasons for missing the targeted return time: Insufficient staffing, late or improper mail arrival, inaccurate route adjustments, and insufficient supervision. The Postal Service agreed with our recommendations to improve the underlying conditions.

We welcome your suggestions as well. What more could be done to get carriers off the streets on time? Given all the variables that can affect the ability to complete deliveries by the targeted time, what additional precautions could be taken to enhance carrier safety?

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