Richmond VA Jan 15 2017 The Richmond Main Post Office has forced employees to work off the clock, deleting or altering their hours to keep overtime low in violation of federal labor law, a lawsuit filed Friday in U.S. District Court on behalf of 17 local letter carriers alleges.
“At least in part due to budget reductions, management and supervisors are under pressure to keep labor costs down by not paying overtime premiums,” the complaint says. “On information and belief, supervisors are instructed and/or encouraged by management not to exceed certain labor cost thresholds and incentivized with bonuses for keeping overtime premium payments low.”
The suit says the U.S. Postal Service has slashed its staffing and labor costs by $10 billion over the past decade, making it difficult for carriers to finish their routes during their scheduled shifts.
Carriers have a half-hour deducted from their time in the postal service’s system for lunch, whether they take it or not, and supervisors have “deleted or altered” their clock-in and clock-out times in order to avoid payments required by the Fair Labor Standards Act.
The practice at the post office at 1801 Brook Road was discovered in October by mail carriers and led to an investigation by the U.S. Postal Service’s Office of the Inspector General, an inquiry that “led to the suspension and/or separation from employment of multiple supervisors, the customer service manager and the postmaster,” the suit says.
Shekeera Greene, a 21-year-old letter carrier, said she injured her neck while carrying mail and, as part of filing an injury claim, she realized managers had clocked her out nearly two hours before she left work that night.
The investigation also led to back payments being made to 99 current and former mail carriers in December, the suit says, adding that the payments were not made in accordance with a Fair Labor Standards Act dispute, were not approved by a court or the Department of Labor, and do not provide adequate compensation for what the workers are owed or damages.
“As is evident from the complaint, based on our investigation to date, we believe there are significant issues at the Richmond Main Post Office resulting in the underpayment of overtime wages to mail carriers,” said Paul Falabella, the attorney representing the mail carriers. “We look forward to litigating the merits of the claims.”
Reached by phone, Howard G. O’Connor said he is still the Richmond postmaster but would not discuss the allegations in the suit.
“I can’t be answering any questions,” he said. “It’s still under investigation.”
A supervisor at the post office could not be reached Friday afternoon. Freda Sauter, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Postal Service, would not comment on the suit or provide information on how much the post office has paid out in back pay and how many supervisors have been disciplined.
A spokesman for the National Association of Letter Carriers did not immediately respond to a request for comment.