USPS preps pay workaround for 45,000 rural carriers impacted by payroll error

Payroll errors at the Postal Service are leading to paycheck problems for its employees. The National Rural Letter Carriers Association said in a statement on i...

Payroll errors at the Postal Service are leading to paycheck problems for its employees.

The National Rural Letter Carriers Association said in a statement on its website Wednesday that it’s aware of an “egregious payroll error” this pay period affecting more than 45,000 rural carriers.

NRLCA said it is “absolutely NOT acceptable” that 45,000 of its members are at risk of receiving missing or partial checks. The union said it’s held multiple talks with USPS since Tuesday.

The union said USPS has identified the problem that caused the payroll problem, “and a fix is already in process, so this will not happen again.”

USPS spokesman David Partenheimer said in a statement Thursday that the agency “identified a programming issue within its payroll system” that impacted some rural carriers’ paychecks scheduled to go out on Sept. 1.

“We have taken immediate steps to ensure employees will be paid through a salary advance in the form of a money order,” Partenheimer said. “The programming issue has been identified and remediated.”

NRLCA said impacted carriers will receive 65% of their gross pay via money order this Friday. That figure is a rough estimate of a rural carrier’s average take-home pay.

The union said impacted rural carriers will have to pay back their salary advance, but won’t be required to pay it back until after USPS has repaid them the correct amount.

“While we understand carriers have done 100% of the work, the ‘take-home pay’ is not 100% of the gross pay,” the union wrote.

NRLCA said local USPS managers will need to process the money orders in order for rural carriers to receive their salary advance this Friday.

“We are demanding that this process is completed without any carrier being hassled or asked to forgo the salary advance,” the union wrote on its website. “All offices are being made aware this is NOT optional and to have plenty of money orders on hand.”

NRLCA said it attempted to bargain for impacted rural carriers to also receive 100% of Equipment Maintenance Allowance, a mileage reimbursement for carriers who use their own private vehicles on their delivery routes, to be paid as part of the salary advance.

The union, however, said it was not successful in this effort, since the EMA “is not currently a contractual right.”

“It will certainly be an issue for collective bargaining as we move forward into contract negotiations,” the union wrote. The union’s current collective bargaining agreement expires in May 2024.

According to USPS, the current EMA is 93.5 cents per mile, or a minimum of $37.40 per day — whichever is greater.

The USPS inspector general’s office reported last year that the agency has begun providing USPS vehicles to carriers that were using their own vehicles on routes. USPS expects this conversion will save $888 million over six years.

USPS earlier this year tightened its online security measures after fraudsters targeted the paychecks and financial information of its employees.

USPS, in a memo to its workforce in January, warned that cybercriminals targeted USPS employees by creating fake websites that closely resemble LiteBlue, the agency’s online employee portal.

Postal unions told members fraudsters were using these spoofed websites to obtain USPS employees’ login credentials and reroute direct-deposit paychecks to their own bank accounts.

LiteBlue allows employees to their paycheck information, access their Federal Employee Health Benefits (FEHB), access their Thrift Savings Plan and contact USPS human resources.

USPS said it shifted LiteBlue to multi-factor authentication (MFA) on Jan. 15.

USPS required employees logging into LiteBlue to reset their password, verify the last four digits of their Social Security Number, and set up their multifactor authentication preferences.

An earlier USPS memo dated Dec. 30, 2022, also warned employees about a fraud scheme by cybercriminals using a fake version of the LiteBlue website.

“When you attempt to log in to a fake site, scammers collect your username and password. Scammers can record this information and use it to enter PostalEASE,” the memo states. “There, scammers may access your sensitive data, which they can manipulate for financial gain.”

The agency said it notified affected employees and is purchased a year of credit monitoring services for them.

The National Association of Letter Carriers said more than 100 of its members were targeted by fraudsters last December, when they attempted to access PostalEASE through a Google search instead of entering the web address directly into their browser.

“Google’s routers redirected their searches to third-party criminally run websites that mirror the look and access of PostalEASE. Unfortunately, their log-on credentials were hacked, and some accounts were compromised,” NALC wrote.

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