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Failure To Meet Standards

Source: NALC.org January 2004 Postal Record: http://www.nalc.org/depart/cau/pdf/contalk/ctk5_04.pdf

Local managers often attempt to discipline letter carriers for failure to meet standards. Whether called “18 and 8,” “percent to standard,” “demonstrated performance,” or by some other such term, this is never just cause for discipline. NALC and the Postal Service have jointly agreed that failure to meet standards, by itself, is not disciplinable misconduct. Under the terms of a September 3, 1976 Memorandum of Understanding, the M-39 Handbook was modified to underscore this point. Section 242.332 now provides that:

No carrier shall be disciplined for failure to meet standards, except in cases of unsatisfactory effort which must be based on documented, unacceptable conduct that led to the carrier’s failure to meet standards.

This principle was further reinforced in the July 11, 1977 Step 4 Settlement M-00386 which states:

Management may not charge or impose discipline upon a carrier merely for failing to meet the 18 and 8 casing standards. Any such charge is insufficient. Under the Memorandum of Understanding of September 3, 1976 [now M-39 § 242.332] the only proper charge for disciplining a carrier is “unsatisfactory effort.” Such a charge must be based on documented, unacceptable conduct which led to the carrier’s failure to meet the 18 and 8 criteria. In such circumstances, management has the burden of proving that the carrier was making an “unsatisfactory effort” to establish just cause for any discipline imposed (emphasis added).

Some managers seem to have the mistaken notion that the rules have been changed since the new DOIS programs is “computerized,” more “modern,” more “accurate,” or whatever. We all know that the quantitative data in the DOIS program are often wildly inaccurate and fail to take into account many of the most significant factors affecting office and street times. But this argument is usually pointless and unnecessary since, in fact, the rules have not changed. This understanding was confirmed in the July 30, 2001 national level settlement M-01444 which provides the following:

The issue in these grievances is whether or not the Piece Count Recording System (PCRS), Projected Office Street Time (POST), or the Delivery Operations Information System (DOIS) violate the National Agreement. After reviewing this matter, we mutually agreed to settle these grievances as follows: Daily piece counts (PCRS) recorded in accordance with the above-referenced systems (POST or DOIS) will not constitute the sole basis for discipline. However, daily counts recorded in accordance with these procedures may be used by the parties in conjunction with other management records and procedures to support or refute any performance-related discipline. This does not change the principle that, pursuant to Section 242.332 of the M-39, “No carrier shall be disciplined for failure to meet standards, except in cases of unsatisfactory effort which must be based on documented, unacceptable conduct that led to the carrier’s failure to meet office standards.” Furthermore, the prearbitration settlement H1N-1N-D 31781, dated October 22, 1985, provides that “there is no set pace at which a carrier must walk and no street standard for walking.” (Emphasis added)


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The regional award C-07368 by Arbitrator Denis Nolan, who now serves on our national arbitration panel, is a good example of how arbitrators should apply these principles. He wrote the following:

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, [the] postmaster impermissibly based the suspension solely upon the Grievant’s failure to meet numerical standards. This is but the latest skirmish in the long running war over standards. No doubt it would be convenient for management to have a simple test to apply to employees suspected of loafing, and perhaps the 18 and 8 standard is a fair test. Whatever that standard’s merits, the parties have agreed not to use it as the basis for discipline.

In [C-3237] national level arbitrator Sylvester Garrett ruled that, because management had unilaterally changed the meaning of the 18 and 8 standard by adjusting the size and configuration of carriers’ cases, it could no longer use the standard for discipline. The parties implemented his award with a Step 4 settlement on July 11, 1977 [M-00386]. That settlement prohibited discipline “merely for failing to meet” the 18 and 8 standard; instead, a supervisor had to charge an employee with “unsatisfactory effort” and to document that charge with specific incidents of unacceptable conduct. The Postal Service later embodied the same requirement in its Handbook M- 39, Section 242.332. It is far too late now to ignore those agreements and rules, yet [the] Postmaster cited not a single specific flaw in the suspension letter he sent to the Grievant. If for no other reason, the discipline would have to be overturned because the Postmaster did not even comply with the Postal Service’s own requirements for evaluating an employee’s work.

Rick Owens - Postal Employee Network

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