With everything going on, continuous absences may be unavoidable for some. There are a lot of carriers out for a long period of time, primarily due to a COVID-related issue.
I would like to share the following information to help you protect yourself from attendance or AWOL discipline. Just a reminder, protection against extended leave begins with first making sure that your address of record is updated in the Postal Service System. If you move, it is important to notify the postal service of your new address in order for us (meaning your shop steward and yourself) to respond to any paperwork that that has been, or claimed to have been, mailed to your address on record.
I have seen certain situations whereas management has claimed to have sent paperwork to the address on record, and in turn, tried to discipline the employee for not responding appropriately. During one particular investigation, it was noted and proven that the employee had reported to the postal service that they moved. Naturally, it worked in the employee’s favor when the employee stated that they never received the documents that the service claimed to have mailed to them. How could one follow instructions that were never received?
If you haven’t moved and documents were sent to the address on record and tracking shows it was delivered, the postal service considers you notified. The responsibility would be then put on you to take the proper steps to notify the union to defend you. Please do not assume that the union knows about the discipline, which was mailed to you. We are always willing, able and prepared to grieve any actions, but we must be notified to do so.
I have mentioned this in previous articles. For those that receive the discipline by mail, but not at work face to face, do not hesitate to call your steward or the branch. The earlier we are notified, the better defense we will have to fight your discipline. Keep in mind, the later we are notified will put us at a greater risk of losing due to the grievance procedure’s contractual timeframes. Not notifying us would be equivalent to waiving your due process rights.
At this present time, there are a lot of people out for legitimate reasons, especially COVID related reasons. The one thing we have to keep in mind is that we have the responsibility in reporting absences to the postal service. I see too many write-ups issued for CAWOL due to the lack of understanding on how leave for extended time periods work. The union is always ready and prepared to fight for carriers when it comes to leave and contractual rights. I want to make sure that you understand your responsibility before it becomes a discipline issue.
When you are out for an extended period of time, you must submit documentation at appropriate intervals; but not more frequently than once every 30 days. I would say after 30 days you should update and request leave. This should be the beginning of your protection against any charge of CAWOL. If we have to grieve the charge of CAWOL, we will have more than a leg to stand on if you fulfill this part of your responsibility.
In addition, the type of documentation is also important. We first have to figure out what type of leave and why. What is considered acceptable documentation? I have received phone calls where the employee says to me, I gave management documentation, but they said it was unacceptable. We can avoid that problem by understanding what they would interpret as acceptable documentation. The Employee Labor Manual states that the documentation should provide an explanation of the nature of the employee’s illness or injury, sufficient to indicate to management that the employee was (or will be) unable to perform his or her normal duties for the period of absence. Normally, medical statements such as “under my care” or “received treatment” are not acceptable evidence of incapacitation to perform duties. When a note says “seen at my office” it is usually declared by management to be unacceptable.