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NAPS Lawsuit Decision—Recalculating!
By Brian J. Wagner
Before starting a road trip, travelers usually have an idea of the direction to take to reach their destination. Thanks to today’s technology, GPS can make the journey easier. Even so, some journeys encounter unexpected roadblocks, prompting GPS to recalculate new directions.
Similarly, the recent decision of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia dismissing NAPS’ lawsuit against the U.S. Postal Service represents a temporary detour, requiring a bit of recalculation by NAPS to improve the pay and representation of all EAS employees. Here’s the scoop!
More than a year ago, NAPS went to federal court seeking declaratory and injunctive relief against the U.S. Postal Service for its failure to pay its supervisors, managers and other professional and administrative employees in accord with its obligations under Section 1004 of Title 39 of the United States Code. Three months earlier, an independent fact-finding panel had unanimously agreed with many of NAPS’ pay complaints, but the Postal Service rejected those findings in adopting the FY16-19 pay package.
NAPS also sought to overturn the Postal Service’s refusal to recognize the rights of postmasters and Headquarters and area personnel to be represented by NAPS in pay consultations. NAPS filed the lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia on July 30, 2019, following unanimous approval by NAPS’ Executive Board.
On July 17, 2020, almost a year later, the district court dismissed NAPS’ lawsuit, ruling that any violation by the USPS of its statutory pay obligations is not subject to judicial review. The district court, it’s important to note, did not rule on the merits of the case.
The district court only determined on procedural grounds that NAPS had no clear right under the “Postal Reorganization Act” (PRA) and Title 39 to take the USPS case to court. The judge ruled that, despite the court’s original jurisdiction over lawsuits against the Postal Service, the PRA does not authorize NAPS to sue the USPS for violations of the law’s mandates on supervisory compensation and representation.
enior Judge Royce Lamberth held that any fix lies more immediately with Congress, rather than the courts. Under the judge’s interpretation of the law, postal supervisory organizations cannot challenge USPS decisions in court because the statute governing postal compensation does not specifically provide a right of action to secure judicial review, despite earlier precedent by the same district court (and the court of appeals above it) approving a similar pay challenge.
Similarly, the judge also did not reach the question of whether the applicable section of Title 39 requires the USPS to recognize the rights of postmasters and Headquarters and area personnel to choose to be represented by NAPS. “At this stage, only Congress can provide the remedy the Association seeks,” Lamberth wrote.
NAPS and its Executive Board, aided by our legal team, disagrees with the court’s decision. This has required NAPS to recalculate how best to reach our destination of a fair and equitable EAS pay system and the representation of postmasters and Headquarters and area employees by NAPS. Therefore, on Sunday, Aug. 9, the NAPS Executive Board held a special Zoom meeting where the board voted in favor of filing an appeal of the district court’s decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Besides filing an appeal, NAPS will redouble our efforts in Congress to pass legislation that reforms the EAS pay consultation process.
Let me be clear: Legislative relief would change only the EAS consultation and representational processes going forward. Legislation would not provide retroactive cure for the USPS’ past disregard for its Title 39 statutory obligations to set supervisory pay at levels comparable to those in the private sector.
Congressional action would not overturn the disastrous FY16-19 pay package or its reliance on a pay-for-performance system that the fact-finding panel found “severely flawed.” That’s why NAPS went to court to contest the Postal Service’s pay practices. And that’s why congressional allies introduced legislation earlier this year to improve the Title 39 pay consultation process and create a more fair playing field.
The first prong of NAPS’ strategy involved filing the lawsuit in July 2019 to spotlight the arbitrariness of USPS supervisory pay practices and the unanimous fact-finding panel report, as well as the USPS’ denial of NAPS’ representational rights. The second prong of our strategy involved proactive action by Congress to reform Title 39.
Bipartisan legislation—the “Postal Supervisors and Managers Fairness Act of 2020,” H.R. 6085—was introduced in March 2020 by Reps. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) and Mike Bost (R-IL). As we approach the end of the current Congress, little time remains to secure enactment of this particular measure. But we are optimistic this measure will be reintroduced early next year.
This two-prong strategy established by the NAPS Executive Board will continue to represent our roadmap in the months ahead, with some recalibration of our legal arguments in our appeal of the district court’s decision and the scope of legislative relief we seek in Congress.
There is no retreat or regret in our strategy. Our objectives remain the same: Hold the Postal Service accountable in its pay consultation relationship with postal management associations and assure the letter of the law is upheld.
NAPS will continue to advocate for its members’ rights. As the fact-finding panel found, the USPS pay system for managers and supervisors is broken and inconsistent with the law. NAPS remains committed to arriving at a day when the Postal Service complies with the law and supervisors, managers and postmasters are paid fairly and appropriately.
Finally, on a lighter note, as we move into autumn, enjoy the multiple colors of fall foliage and my September ice-cream-flavor-of-the-month recommendation: brown sugar bourbon vanilla.
Click here to view the timeline of NAPS v. USPS.