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Judge to determine if mail carriers disciplined for reporting injuries

Posted On: Jul. 29, 2020 2:11 PM CST

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An administrative law judge must determine whether the testimony provided by two mail carriers who claim they were disciplined for reporting workplace injuries is credible.

In Secretary of Labor v. U.S. Postal Service, the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission on Tuesday reversed and remanded a decision to vacate a citation levied against the U.S. Postal Service for allegedly retaliating against employees who reported workplace-related injuries.

In 2017, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued the Postal Service a citation for an other-than-serious violation for allegedly violating a recordkeeping regulation prohibiting employers from discharging or discriminating against workers for reporting a work-related injury or illness.

The citation claims that the Postal Service retaliated against two mail carriers at its Mount Oliver branch office in Pittsburgh by issuing the workers seven-day working suspensions after they each reported a work-related injury.

The first mail carrier claimed that he injured his shoulder while lifting a sack of mail to a mail truck and, after reporting it, was recommended for discipline. The second mail carrier reported being bitten by a dog while delivering mail and was allegedly recommended for disciplinary action after reporting the incident for failing to follow the Postal Service’s worker safety program.

An administrative law judge vacated the citation, holding that the Secretary of Labor failed to show the Postal Service’s reasons for disciplining the two mail carriers were pretextual, and the Secretary of Labor appealed.

The review commission reversed and remanded the decision. Although the Postal Service argued that the mail carrier who sustained the lifting injury re-enacted the improper lifting technique he used when he reported the injury to his supervisor, the mail carrier claimed that he did not reenact the lifting method and that his manager said nothing to him about “unsafe” lifting.

The commission found that whether the reenactment took place and whether an improper lifting technique was demonstrated is a credibility determination that must be made by the administrative judge.

The commission also held a credibility determination was necessary in the second case to determine whether the mail carrier followed established safety protocols related to delivering mail around aggressive dogs.