Back-Pay Processing

October 3, 2018

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(This article first appeared in the September/October 2018 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine) 

By Support Services Division Director Steve Brooks 

You may be, or have been, an employee whose postal employment was in jeopardy due to a disciplinary action. I know employees in this circumstance can find the process of getting your case heard time consuming and frustrating, whether it is through arbitration or pre-arbitration.

If you have an agreement, or have won a case in which the settlement is to bring you back to work with backpay, I’m sure you have realized the Postal Service is in no hurry to get you the pay and benefits you deserve. Furthermore, they are not trained properly when it comes to completing necessary back-pay forms.

If you are entitled to a back-pay settlement, you are going to want to initiate the process of collecting that back-pay. You or your union representative will want to immediately contact Labor Relations and ask for PS Form 8038 an employee request for back-pay. It is imperative that you fully complete the form and submit it to the labor specialist. The specialist is supposed to use the information you supply to complete PS Form 8039, which management submits to the Eagan IT/AS for processing. Management may have the responsibility of completing PS Form 8039 completely and accurately, but it is also your responsibility to review the form to ensure management has completed it correctly. You are required to sign the form, indicating that you reviewed and agree with the information submitted.

Common reasons for delays in the processing of an award are: lack of appropriate signatures, missing information, and not submitting a copy of the settlement with the back-pay award. This is why I say that it is the responsibility of the employee, or union representative, to review the information and only sign off when you agree it is correct.

Proper steps to ensure the information provided is complete and accurate can avoid delays in processing. When the request is received in Eagan, they do an initial review of the documents to make sure they contain proper signatures and grievance documentation. You can reduce the possibility of having your case returned to the labor specialist by reviewing the form when it is first submitted.

A few simple things to keep in mind when you, or your union representative, are considering settling a case where back-pay is involved: Management likes to take the easy way out and offer a lump sum to settle the case and make it go away. This is only a good idea when the hours being paid are overtime, out-of-schedule, Sunday premium, or another type of premium pay that is not a base work hour. If you agree to a lump sum as a settlement, you are given no work hours credit. This will affect your FMLA hours credit, retirement contributions, TSP contributions, service history credit hours for retirement and leave credits.

We have been conducting a payroll class at conferences and conventions over the years that targets the Postal Service payroll system and how it works. As part of that class, we teach the basics of back-pay processing procedures.  Based on calls I receive from union officers and employees, I will be developing a more comprehensive training class that focuses on avoiding delays in processing back-pay awards. I believe that many in management deliberately delay completing back-pay forms because they are upset they lost a case, and now they feel it is costing the Postal Service money. In fact, they lost the case because their actions were wrong, and the money being paid out is money that was deserved by the employee from the day they were put off the clock.

Your back-pay award belongs in your pocket, and your union will fight to make sure you get every penny. ■



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