Thu. Jun 20th, 2024

FEDERAL COURT FINDS USPS AGAIN WRONGFULLY FIRED PROBATIONARY MAIL CARRIER SHORTLY AFTER REPORTING WORKPLACE INJURY, THIS TIME IN OREGON

May 22, 2024
DOL

READ FULL ARTICLE AT » U.S. Department of Labor

PORTLAND, OR – After a two-day bench trial, the U.S. Department of Labor obtained a federal court judgment that orders the U.S. Postal Service to pay $141,307 in lost wages and damages for emotional distress suffered to a probationary mail carrier who the agency fired after they reported an on-the-job injury to their supervisor and filed an accident report.

Judge Adrienne Nelson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon found USPS discriminated against and wrongfully terminated the employee 21 days after the worker reported that they suffered a leg injury near the end of their shift as they unloaded mail from a USPS truck. The agency fired the worker 11 days before the probationary period ended. The judgment follows an investigation by the department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration and litigation filed by the department’s Office of the Solicitor when an administrative settlement could not be reached.

Since 2020, the department has filed nine federal lawsuits to protect USPS probationary employees similarly fired after reporting injuries in California, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Washington. In several of these lawsuits, the department found USPS did not follow its own policies and procedures related to probation, including timely evaluation of the employee and completion of probationary reports, namely PS Form 1750. In the Oregon decision, the judge noted that USPS’ failure to do so provided “evidence of retaliatory intent.”

“Unconscionably, the U.S. Postal Service has fired probationary employees repeatedly after they reported workplace injuries,” said Regional Solicitor of Labor Marc Pilotin in San Francisco. “Employees and their families are harmed by these baseless terminations. In fact, the Oregon court found they caused ‘significant mental, emotional and financial stress’.”

In addition to these lawsuits, the department has identified a repeated pattern of similar actions by USPS. Since 2020, OSHA has resolved five related investigations in California, Florida, Illinois and New Jersey, and currently has three similar cases awaiting trial against USPS in Washington state. Federal law forbids employers from taking adverse actions or punishing employees who report an injury or workplace hazard.

The Oregon decision is one of several recent court orders in the department’s favor. In a Washington case decided last year, a federal court in Tacoma issued a summary judgment, finding the USPS did retaliate against a probationary employee who reported a workplace injury.

In a case currently pending, the court stated it would draw negative inferences against the USPS regarding why it terminated the employee and ordered it to pay the department $37,222 in attorney’s fees for its failure to preserve critical evidence by destroying text messages and throwing the personnel records of a probationary mail carrier — fired one day after they reported a workplace injury — into the garbage. The court’s final decisions about back wages, damages and other issues are pending trial.

“We will continue to combat retaliation and seek systemic change at USPS to ensure it protects those workers who deliver for our country,” Pilotin added.

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