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A Second Chomp of the Apple
By Brian J. Wagner
NAPS Immediate Past President
On Feb. 16, 2023, the USPS Office of the Inspector General (OIG) published an audit report, Number 22-128-R23, titled “Supervisor Timecard Administration.” The report was published just before my column on comp time appeared in the March 2023 issue. Talk about the timing of an important EAS pay topic!
Then, I saw some NAPS Facebook comments from members referencing the comp time column. I was “chomping at the bit” to provide a short—okay, long—follow-up. Here’s the scoop:
In my March column, I said there were no references in the USPS Employee and Labor Relations Manual (ELM), postal handbooks or manuals regarding comp time. However, a member posted on NAPS’ Facebook page: “ELM 519.733 provides for a full comp day when directed to work normal NS day for exempt non-bargaining employees.” The member further posted, “I don’t see a provision allowing special-exempt employees to get personal leave in ELM 53.”
ELM 53, Section 519.733, “Directed to Work,” reads: “When an exempt employee is directed to work a full day on a holiday or other full day in addition to normal workdays, the supervisor may grant a full day of personal absence without charging it to official leave.”
Being granted a full day of personal absence is not the same as comp time. When you dissect ELM 519.733, it reads “ … supervisor may (bold for emphasis) grant a full day of personal absence. … ” The word is “may”—unfortunately, not “must.”
However, over the years and most recently during the February 2023 USPS/NAPS monthly consultative meeting, NAPS Headquarters submitted Agenda Item #6 to request the USPS change the word “may” to “must” in ELM 519.733 when it comes to granting the full day of absence.
Although a USPS answer still is pending, NAPS must continue its effort to change this ELM reference to ensure those exempt EAS employees who are directed to work are rightly compensated. To further clarify, if a full day of personal absence is granted per ELM 519.733, the ELM does not require the full-day absence must be taken during the same week the EAS employee was directed to work.
As for whether a special-exempt employee may receive personal leave, ELM 53, Section 432.112, “Nonbargaining Unit Employees,” categorizes nonbargaining unit employees. In brief, the USPS categorizes full-time salaried EAS employees as follows:
Per ELM 519.733, an exempt employee may take personal leave. Per ELM 432.112, special-exempt EAS employees are considered “exempt” by FLSA provisions. Therefore, ELM sections 519.733 and 432.112 support the premise that special-exempt EAS employees may request personal leave.
As I also referenced in my March column, how do you explain to the OIG the use of comp time when it is not an “official” type of USPS leave and your leave wasn’t properly documented? You can’t.
Referring back to the OIG’s “Supervisor Timecard Administration” audit report, it found that opportunities existed for the Postal Service to improve the accuracy of supervisors’ recorded workhours. They also found issues with incomplete documentation for timecard adjustments and supervisors who worked extra time that was not recorded in TACS. Specifically, managers did not always properly document adjustments made to supervisor timecards.
In the audit, the OIG stated it was critical that supervisors adhere to their schedules and follow procedures to record all hours, including extra hours worked. Furthermore, Postal Service management shares a responsibility to ensure an employee’s time is recorded timely and accurately in TACS.
The OIG report cited various reasons why special-exempt employees were not properly paid. One specific reason was supervisors did not think it was necessary to record extra hours because those hours would be made up on another workday. In other words—my words—these EAS employees were either given or promised comp time.
Rather than rehash my entire March column, which I almost did, EAS employees should have an understanding of why proper EAS timecard reporting and accuracy are important. I encourage NAPS members to read the full Feb. 16, 2023, USPS OIG audit report. Why?
Proper recording of all USPS employee workhours, especially EAS employee workhours, will show the true USPS workload for budgeting and staffing needs of a unit. Plus, it will help NAPS in advocating and consulting for proper supervisory and managerial staffing and pay in all USPS operations and functions.
I now am chomping at the bit to share my ice-cream-flavor-of-the-month recommendation: apple cinnamon swirl.