What is Supposed to Happen When Workplace Harassment is Reported?

July 18, 2023

Share this article

(This article first appeared in the July/August 2023 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine)

With the many legitimate complaints against Postal Service management’s inappropriate treatment of employees and unacceptable behaviors, there is a process in place that all our APWU sisters and brothers need to familiarize themselves with.

During our Workplace Environment Committee meetings, Initial Management Inquiry Processes (IMIPs) are frequently discussed to find solutions to the recurring question of why is there so much harassment of our members? The sheer number of grievances related to the constant harassment complaints across the entire country is indicative of why this process, and others, are necessary.

The IMIP requires that managers, postmasters, and supervisors gather enough information at the onset of a complaint to properly proceed. There are many determinations to be made by management, such as separating the employees, and if applicable, a recommendation to seek Employee Assistance Program counseling.

This process must be completed by a higher-level supervisor or manager who has the authority to launch the inquiry. The IMIP will not replace a harassment investigation conducted by Human Resources. The IMIP requires that management react promptly to complaints associated with harassment, and mandates that management properly address the problem. It is not appropriate for management to refer the problem to any other process, such as the Equal Employment Opportunity process; they should punctually investigate concerns that are brought forth by any employee.

Once the complaint is received, management must separately and thoroughly interview the harassed worker, the harasser, and all witnesses relative and specific to the complaint. This process must be acted upon promptly. Management’s failure to act promptly can result in loss of evidence and finding management did not act reasonably. Once a thorough investigation has been completed, management must evaluate the information derived from interviews with all of the parties involved in the investigation. APWU national and local officers are committed to ensuring that management follows all of the established protocols by the local manager, Human Resources, Headquarters (HQ) and HQ field units.

Interviews must be confidential to the greatest extent possible, and employees should report this to their local union's leadership if this isn’t the case. Documentation related to the interviews should be provided to the manager, Human Resources, local or area offices, for HQ and HQ field units. APWU regional Safety and Health representatives throughout the country report on and address management’s lack of commitment to improve conditions. The dedicated regional Safety and Health representatives, will continue to fight for our members. We are exploring the possibility of an enhanced process to ensure IMIPs are promptly addressed.

We recently received an arbitration award for a grievance pertaining to an IMIP that was not properly conducted by the USPS. Four employees were awarded $10,000, with an additional penalty of $50 per day until the award is fully paid.

As per Publication 552, the USPS must always conduct IMIPs without delay, and they must follow the rules and procedures to ensure that a legitimate investigation was performed. The APWU leadership implores each of you to stand together, just as we have on many occasions, to combat the monsters in the Postal Service who will continue to bully as usual, if they are not held accountable for their actions.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the Industrial Relations Department for information and assistance regarding IMIPs. ■


Any local or state can organize events and rallies to protest harassment, and to stand up for respect and dignity. Please send your photos and videos of your union-organized events and rallies to: communications@apwu.org.

Stay in touch with your union

Subscribe to receive important information from your union.