Postal Service:

Discipline Practices Vary

GGD-89-79: Published: May 19, 1989. Publicly Released: May 19, 1989.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the U.S. Postal Service's (USPS) disciplinary policies, focusing on whether they provided a USPS-wide program of discipline with uniform disciplinary actions for similar infractions.

GAO found that: (1) USPS policy did not indicate which infractions were considered minor, how many discussions to hold before taking disciplinary action, or whether discussions should precede disciplinary action for subsequent but different infractions; (2) about 68 percent of the supervisors required discussions for each new infraction regardless of past discussions for different infractions; (3) some employees received more opportunities to correct their behavior before receiving discipline than others, since supervisors handled discussions differently; (4) employees who engaged in the same category of misconduct and who had the same number of prior infractions often had different penalties; (5) although there was no precise instruction for how to consider prior infractions, 59 percent of the supervisors considered all disciplinary actions regardless of the infractions; (6) 82 percent of the supervisors did not consider unresolved prior infractions, 55 percent considered the original penalty, and 45 percent considered the revised penalty; (7) although policy required progressive discipline, it did not provide a definition of a specific progressive sequence; (8) about 50 percent of the supervisors believed that progressiveness was limited to a letter of warning, followed by suspensions of increasing length, followed by removal; (9) arbitrators cited lack of progressiveness as a basis for reducing about 10 percent of arbitrated grievances; and (10) there was no specific instruction that required officials who reviewed proposed suspensions and removals for document adequacy to examine penalties for consistency.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: USPS expanded the use of modified discipline procedures being tested at various facilities. These procedures specify the circumstances under which predisciplinary discussions are required. The procedures deal with the problems of distinguishing between major and minor offenses and the handling of subsequent, but different, infractions by the same employee.

    Recommendation: To enhance the consistency and predictability in the enforcement of USPS work rules, the Postmaster General should direct the Senior Assistant Postmaster General, Human Resources, to define major and minor offenses to clarify when predisciplinary discussions should be given in lieu of discipline.

    Agency Affected: United States Postal Service

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: USPS stated that it expanded the use of modified discipline procedures being tested at various facilities. The procedures deal with the problems of distinguishing between major and minor offenses and the handling of subsequent, but different, infractions by the same employee.

    Recommendation: To enhance the consistency and predictability in the enforcement of USPS work rules, the Postmaster General should direct the Senior Assistant Postmaster General, Human Resources, to clarify whether predisciplinary discussions should precede disciplinary action for subsequent, but different, infractions committed by the same employee.

    Agency Affected: United States Postal Service

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: USPS stated that it plans to remind its supervisors of guidance on how to consider prior infractions.

    Recommendation: To enhance the consistency and predictability in the enforcement of USPS work rules, the Postmaster General should direct the Senior Assistant Postmaster General, Human Resources, to develop uniform rules for considering prior infractions, including guidance on whether to consider only like infractions or all past infractions, what time frame of past infractions should be considered, and whether to consider grieved past infractions that were reduced or are pending.

    Agency Affected: United States Postal Service

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: USPS will require concurring officials to ensure the appropriateness and consistency of discipline.

    Recommendation: To enhance the consistency and predictability in the enforcement of USPS work rules, the Postmaster General should direct the Senior Assistant Postmaster General, Human Resources, to issue guidance to require concurring officials to expand their reviews of proposed suspensions and removals to include the consistency of the penalties.

    Agency Affected: United States Postal Service

 

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