A Postal Service timekeeping error will prevent a couple thousand rural carriers from receiving their regular paycheck on time this week.
USPS says the issue is local in nature, and will affect a small fraction of rural carriers, compared to the tens of thousands of employees who were impacted by a major payroll error back in September.
As a temporary workaround, USPS is giving impacted employees the option to receive a money order in the approximate sum of their paycheck this week.
USPS spokesman David Coleman told Federal News Network in a statement Tuesday that, “due to timekeeping errors at the local level,” approximately 2,220 USPS rural carriers will not be paid through the normal process this Friday.
Coleman said supervisors are notifying impacted carriers, and that they will receive “salary advancements” in the form of a money order, starting Wednesday.
The National Rural Carriers Association (NRLCA) said in a statement that the payroll issue is “unacceptable,” and that “rural carriers expect and deserve timely compensation for work performed.”
“While these carriers are entitled to an emergency salary advance, it is egregious to fail in this most basic obligation an employer has to their employees,” the union said. “The NRLCA will use all means at its disposal to ensure affected carriers are made whole in all respects and make it clear that the service must take whatever action is necessary to ensure widespread payroll issues such as this cease.”
The timekeeping error acknowledged by USPS adds complications to a paycheck many rural carriers expected to receive this Friday — the day after Thanksgiving, and the biggest shopping day in the U.S.
USPS is also dealing with its latest pay issue as it rolls out preparations for the year-end holiday peak season.
The agency dealt with a much larger pay issue in September, when a payroll error led to more than 50,000 rural carriers seeing missing or partial paychecks nationwide.
The vast majority of those impacted — about 45,000 employees — were non-career rural carriers who cover routes for full-time career mail carriers as needed.
Rural carriers shared images with Federal News Network showing that their Sept. 1 pay stubs totaled $0 in take-home pay.
USPS offered impacted carriers a money order salary advance worth 65% of their gross pay – a rough estimate of their typical take-home pay.
The salary advances, however, left some rural carriers struggling to cover for deductions that automatically pay out of their regular paycheck or their checking account – including rent or mortgage payments.
Several rural carriers said they’ve encountered multiple problems receiving their paycheck on time during their USPS careers.
A rural carrier based in Georgia told Federal News Network in September this was the eighth time he experienced pay issues – and that six of them resulted from his manager inputting his hours incorrectly.
Another carrier said in September that local management at his post didn’t issue salary advances, as directed by USPS.
NRLCA National President Don Maston said in an interview last month that the USPS payroll error caused more of a headache than any other IT glitch of its kind in recent history.
Maston also said the incident should serve as a warning sign for USPS to update its legacy system.
“It’s just really an indication they need to take a little bit of money and look at redoing their payroll system,” Maston said. “The Postal Service has an antiquated system that needs to be updated. It’s been around for decades … It’s only a matter of time before something happens again.”
While Maston said the September incident was the first time he’d seen a payroll error of that magnitude, he said that “every pay period, there are issues that affect some carrier somewhere.”
“Every pay period, there are issues within the system, because there is a human element as well. It’s not just the old system, but there is a human element of inputting payroll codes and data into a system. If that local postmaster or supervisor makes an error in the code they put in, then the carrier is forced to go through this payroll adjustment process,” Maston said.
The September payroll error drew scrutiny from lawmakers, who pressed USPS for updates on how soon rural carriers would receive their back pay.
USPS told lawmakers in a Sept. 29 letter that many of the more than 50,000 impacted rural carriers had been made whole, and that, “with limited exceptions,” it paid carriers what they were owed within one or two pay periods.
But affected carriers told Federal News Network last month that USPS still hadn’t paid them the correct amounts, and that not receiving their paycheck on time led to overdraft fees from their banks.
The situation marked a breaking point for one rural carrier, who said he quit working for the agency.
Several rural carriers waiting on their back pay contacted their state Labor Departments. That led to the federal Labor Department looking into the issue.
A Labor Department spokesperson told Federal News Network in late October that the department’s Wage and Hour Division “has an open investigation into USPS.”
“No additional information can be provided as it is ongoing,” the spokesperson said.