Postal Service Plans To ‘Outplace’ Disabled Workers

As the Postal Service (USPS) shifts towards a for-profit corporate model, managers have become more and more interested in “trimming the fat” by cutting loose employees deemed unnecessary. To do this, they have introduced a program on Long Island and in Flushing, New York called the “Outplacement Initiative.”

Under this program, permanently ill or injured postal workers could be sent to work at private companies. The workers would lose all of the benefits of their union contract, from pension and health care to a defined grievance procedure.

Meanwhile, if the private employer’s wages are lower than what that worker would earn at the USPS, the Department of Labor’s Office of Worker’s Compensation (OWCP) would cover the difference.

Sound complicated? In short, taxpayer money would be going to private companies while federal workers are stripped of their union status.


Initially, employees designated for Outplacement Initiative are workers able to work 40 hours or more per week, eight hours or more per day. In the Flushing area, 12 people have been designated for this program. The 12, all permanently disabled from lifting accidents, tripping hazards, or dog bites, were sent first to the basement of the Flushing main postal facility to wait out their terms.

After spending a month doing irrelevant paperwork, these letter carriers were sent home for one week of paid administrative leave, and then were given letters describing their future in the Outplacement Initiative.

The program is laid out in the OWCP’s Vocational Rehabilitation manual. Each employee will be interviewed by a rehabilitation counselor. These interviews are intended to “assist disabled employees covered under the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA) to minimize their disabilities and return them to gainful work.”



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As employees go through the program, they are “rated” as to their skills and wage level and will be placed accordingly, first attempting to locate work in another federal agency and then a private employer.

Private employers have already been contacted as part of a project called “assisted reemployment,” which is designed to stimulate private employers by reimbursing the injured employees’ salary up to 75 percent the first year, up to 50 percent the second year, and up to 25 percent the third and final year.

When a job is found, if the employer is willing to pay the “rated” employee $25,000 to push papers, OWCP will make up the difference, depending on what the former letter carrier made at his old job.

The separated employees will lose representation rights from their union; have their health benefits switched to the new employer’s benefits, even if they are worse; have their federal pension frozen without future earnings potential; and lose all access to other sources of investment within their previous federal employment.


The OWCP doctrine maintains that the program helps injured workers become self-supporting and productive, and saves money by eliminating or reducing worker’s compensation payments. While the program will doubtless be a money-saver, it is ridiculous to claim it will help injured workers in any way.

Permanently ill or injured workers were formerly placed in “permanent rehabilitation” positions, mostly doing clerk work because their medical condition could no longer endure the rigors of delivering mail. This accommodation met the federal guidelines of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and maintained a level of dignity and respect for employees no longer able to perform their job functions.

If the Outplacement Initiative is successful, it will soon be slated for a postal facility near you.

Mark Sobel is president of National Association of Letter Carriers Branch 294 in Flushing, New York.