According to an investigation by the Center for Public Integrity (CPI), the U.S. Postal Service has been regularly cheating mail carriers out of their rightful pay. The nonprofit investigative news service discovered federal investigations and private arbitrations showing that managers at hundreds of post offices across the nation have been illegally underpaying their workers for years.
At the end of her shift on a January day, Texas mail carrier Nancy Campos filled out her time sheet. Then, she took a picture of what she had entered.
“I knew what was going to happen,” she said, “because it happens every pay period.”
Sure enough, when she checked her pay stub two weeks later, her time sheet had been altered. Six hours of overtime were missing – about $201.
This pattern of changing workers’ time sheets to short them of their rightful wages has been going on for years, according to the CPI.
According to summaries of private arbitration cases brought by postal worker unions, the problem is widespread. Between 2010 and 2019, the arbitration summaries revealed, at least 250 managers from 60 post offices were caught altering timecards and shorting their wages.
When these supervisors were caught, they were rarely disciplined. Instead, they usually received a warning or more training. They didn’t even stop the illegal behavior, in many cases. According to the arbitration documents, managers in four cities continued the wage thefts even after promising union leaders that they would stop.
The USPS has been cited by the federal government 1,150 times since 2005 for underpaying employees. One case involved 164 violations. In those 1,150 citations, the Department of Labor determined that the USPS had stolen about $659,000.
Even though the Labor Department cited the USPS for wage theft, it didn’t actually require the agency to repay the stolen wages. Instead, it negotiated with the Postal Service and obtained only about half of the stolen money. This is a common practice at the Labor Department.
The Postal Service is under tremendous money pressure
The USPS is struggling to pay off $188 billion in unfunded liabilities and debts, largely because of a federal law that requires the agency to pre-pay retiree healthcare and pensions. As a result, it has cut about 142,000 jobs since 2007 and took out a $10 billion emergency loan in March 2020.
Supervisors try to pressure workers into avoiding overtime, but the pandemic brought on an enormous spike in online delivery orders. Mail carriers are overwhelmed, as is the USPS itself. It delivers almost a third of Amazon’s packages.
That is not a good reason to steal employee wages.
Has your employer shorted you on wages? It happens all too often. Talk to an experienced employment law attorney.