Trampling on Veterans' Rights

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(This article by then-Executive Vice President Cliff Guffey appeared in the September/October 2002 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)

A recent regional Merit Systems Protection Board decision rejected the appeal of an APWU veteran who had been involuntarily demoted to a lower grade. "Appellant may well be performing lower-graded duties," the board ruled, "but, absent an official position change, appellant's reduction in 'rank' does not constitute a matter appealable to the Board."

Veterans are familiar with the privileges of "rank" and we are well-versed in the Veterans' Preferences Act and its provisions that are backed by the Collective Bargaining Agreement. We are going to appeal this to the full MSPB. If the Postal Service can keep a veteran unassigned and working at a lower level year-in and year-out, it quite simply has destroyed the very rights these veterans were granted by Congress.

There's no question that veterans have earned additional rights. We're asking all veterans to fight for these rights to investigate, for example, whether a Reduction-in-Force (RIF) is required before they can be assigned elsewhere.

The following case illustrates how such battles can be won.

Unless It's a Real RIF, It's Wrong

When the USPS abolished the position of a Senior Postal Source Data Technician (PS-7), and assigned him to a lower-graded job, it went too far, an administrative law judge has ruled, by denying the veteran his due-process rights.

The APWU member was designated an "unassigned regular" and given the duties of a PS-4 mail processor (at PS-7 pay). The judge said that if there is no longer a need for such a position, the agency should "detail the appellant to another position while it initiates Reduction-in-Force procedures. It must afford the appellant due process under the RIF regulations."

"Because the appellant's position no longer existed, the [Postal Service] could not return him to that position," the judge wrote. "And because it had not issued a Designation of Personnel Action form, it took no formal action rescinding the appealed action € the appellant asks that the Board require the agency to conduct a RIF thereby placing him in a formally designated position."

The Postal Service action of assigning him Level 7 duties, but not to another established position, does not alter the fact the agency effectively released the veteran from his competitive level without benefit of RIF procedures.

The Postal Service cannot evade RIF procedures, the judge ruled, "by merely placing the appellant in an indeterminate state of employment."

The judge ordered the action reversed, and when the veteran couldn't get the decision enforced, he went back to the judge, who ruled that the USPS had failed to comply with his earlier decision.

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