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Trenton Metro Area Local

American Postal Workers Union

AFL-CIO

President Bill Lewis

Deems Desirable

By 

Sandy Schleher, Clerk Craft Director

Family Leave Coordinator

 Trenton Metro Area Local

   

The Central New Jersey District has recently instituted a new program for attendance control that is inconsistent with the Employee and Labor Relations Manual and the Collective Bargaining Agreement.  Specifically, they have directed their field Supervisors to utilize a new option/feature in the eRMS system called “deems desirable” for absences of 3 days or less in an attempt to reduce sick leave usage.  

Management at the local level asserts that this new tool can be utilized to protect the interests of the Postal Service, and has instituted its usage as a new element of their attendance policy when they perceive an employee is abusing their sick leave.  Management merely flips a switch in the eRMS system that will activate the voice recognition toll free hotline to advise you when you call off sick that you will be required to submit medical documentation to support your sick leave request for absences of 3 days or less.  

Generally, sick leave requests of 3 days or less have not required the submission of medical and/or acceptable documentation for approval of paid leave.  However, when a supervisor has reason to believe an employee may be abusing their sick leave, in accordance with the Employee and Labor Relations Manual, Management has the option of placing an employee on a “Restricted Sick Leave List”, which would require the employee to submit medical evidence for each and every sick leave request, including absences of 3 days or less. 

APWU Industrial Relations Director Greg Bell sought clarification in August of 2007 concerning the use of the “deems desirable” option from Headquarters Manager John Dockins (see attached), who responded that there was no dispute or disagreement between the parties as it pertains to the conditions under which an employee may be required to submit medical documentation or other acceptable evidence for periods of absence of 3 days or less. 

However, The Local Union was forced to initiate a class action grievance in October 2007 when the Central New Jersey Family Medical Leave Coordinator sent a directive instructing supervisor’s to utilize the “deems desirable” feature/option in eRMS.  This grievance was denied at the various steps of the grievance/arbitration process, and will eventually be scheduled for Arbitration. 

Subsequently, the Thanksgiving Day Holiday saw the wholesale utilization of this option by Customer Service Supervisors, who have continued to expand the use of this function, in spite of the understanding of the parties at Headquarters level. 

Managements Leave Control Instructions to the field include the following list of indicators of possible abuse of sick leave, hence the possible utilization of “deems desirable”: 

The first workday following a pay-day
Before or after a scheduled day off
On the same calendar day of the week
Before or after a holiday
When workload is heaviest
When overtime is required
During inclement weather
On a day of public events and/or ball games
On a day the working spouse has the day off or vacation
When previously refused a day off
When an undesirable job is to be performed
When scheduled to work weekends or holidays
Excessive intermittent absences of short duration
Any time there is insufficient justification
The beginning of hunting season
The attendance at Union meetings/functions

 If you find your Supervisor is utilizing the deems desirable option and denying you paid leave for sick leave absences of 3 days or less, or if you are denied annual leave for a legitimate emergency, please contact your local steward so they can initiate an investigation to determine whether or not your supervisors actions are consistent with the provisions of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

There will be times when Management may very well be within their rights to require acceptable documentation to protect the interests of the Postal Service, but only your Union Representative can determine the legitimacy of such a request by investigating the fact circumstances on a case by case basis.