USPS Unleashes NRP (Phases 1 & 2)

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(This article was adapted June 29, 2007 from a Human Relations Dept. article in the March/April 2007 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)

In mid-December, the APWU was notified that Phase 1 of the National Reassessment Process had been implemented nationwide. The Postal Service estimates that 33,707 limited duty and rehabilitation employees will be reassessed under “NRP,” which was previously known as “Outplacement.” All 85 USPS Districts began Phase 1 of this national program on Nov. 6, 2006.

During a pilot period that began in 2004, 1,077 limited duty and rehab employees were evaluated, with 168 (15.6 percent) being told that there was no longer any “medically suitable” work available for them. They were referred to the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs and sent home. Most are expected to be placed in OWCP’s vocational-rehabilitation program for re-employment.

Phase 1

The Phase 1 process should consist of the following actions: Establishing a light-duty “standard operating procedure” that includes identifying all limited duty/rehab employees; updating medical information as necessary (no blanket policy); and verifying that written job-offers accurately reflect the work being performed. Additional medical documentation should not be necessary if it was recently provided. It is important to note that no “make work” or “necessary work” determinations are to be made during this phase. [NRP Phase 1 Overview]

Phase 2

Once a District completes all required Phase 1 actions, USPS Headquarters will be notified that the District is ready to begin Phase 2. No more than three Districts per Area should be in Phase 2 at a time.

Phase 2 will include: Evaluating the “necessity” of specific job duties; interviewing partially recovered employees; and then either renewing their existing job offer, providing new job offers, or referring the employees to OWCP. [NRP Phase 2 Overview]

Providing limited-duty and rehab jobs will take priority over establishing light-duty assignments. This remains a possible area of contractual dispute. If medical documentation establishes that a limited-duty employee has reached maximum medical improvement (MMI), that employee will enter the Postal Service rehab-job process. The craft that is indicated on the employee’s Form 50 will be the craft that will first be reviewed for suitable employment.

The USPS should be made aware of all duties that an affected employee can perform. Any non-work-related medical restrictions should also be evaluated. If no job offer is made, the employee should identify for the record duties that they can perform. Employees will have 14 days to accept or reject a job offer. If employees want their physicians to review the job offer, reasonable requests for extensions should be granted.

The local union and employee will receive approximately one week’s notice of an interview date. At the “interactive” interview, employees who are not given job offers will be provided with Forms CA 2a and CA7 (“Recurrence of Disability” and “Claim for Compensation”) and then sent home.

Case by Case

No rules have been changed, and every assignment is should be made on a case-by-case basis after an individualized assessment. Indiscriminate reassignments are clear violations of both applicable regulations and the Postal Service’s stated position.

We are concerned that the required good-faith efforts to find medically suitable employment will not be made, and that seniority rights will be ignored when injured employees are reassigned. We are also concerned about the Postal Service’s application of a standard commuting area, which may limit the availability of rehab jobs. The APWU Industrial Relations Department has initiated Step 4 disputes on these issues.

Under the protocols of the NRP, the new rehab job offers will consist only of “necessary” work. This position is inconsistent with the one the Postal Service advanced in a national arbitration case in 2002 (E90-C- 4E C 95076238), and is in conflict with Section 546.142 of the Employee and Labor Relations Manual. These issues are currently being reviewed by the Industrial Relations Department in order to initiate Step 4 disputes.

A reference document prepared by the Human Relations Department should be useful in deciding what action should be taken if the Postal Service determines that there is no medically suitable work available for an employee. This document, When a Limited Duty/Permanent Rehabilitation Assignment Is Withdrawn, is available on the APWU Web site at “Human Relations/ Federal Injury Compensation/ USPS NRP Background...”

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