USPS Policy Allows DMU Employees to Refuse COVID Screening

Commercial mail producers continue to express concerns that, despite having protocols to screen visitors for virus exposure, postal employees coming into their facilities to work at detached mail units refuse to comply, often citing instructions from their union (the American Postal Workers Union).

As much as such a position may seem counterintuitive and potentially dangerous, it appears that the Postal Service sanctioned it in a policy statement issued last spring.  The April 1 Industry Alert itself (below) offered no explanation for the agency’s refusal to cooperate with screening practices, instead referring to a Q&A document (Coronavirus Updates for Business Customers).  Although that cited document referred to letter carriers, the same policy presumably was applied to all craft employees:

“While we understand customers’ desire to screen individuals entering their facilities, we cannot require our letter carriers to comply with such requests.  Our carriers have privacy protections under Federal laws – such as the Privacy Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (as amended) – that may be violated if we require a carrier to be subjected to precautionary screenings by customers.”

In turn, commercial mail producers were advised to bring their mail to the local BMEU – hardly a practical alternative for mailings of any significant volume – or work out an “alternative process and/or location” for mail entry with local postal management.  Another contemporary document (Business Mail Entry Facility Contingency Plan for Mailers), issued May 4, spoke about facility closures but did not address pre-screening for access.

Unfortunately, the past six months have not seen the development of a more balanced policy that enables both more normal DMU operations while ensuring reasonable privacy protection and the safety of all personnel involved.  Meanwhile, commercial mail producers are left to deal with the consequences as best they can.

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