Postal worker suit seems to beg for downsizing

The SE Texas Record Sep. 22, 2011, 8:10am

Postal clerk Sandra Kay Gilbert is suing the U.S. Postal Service in the Tyler Division of the Eastern District of Texas because her supervisor asked her to substantiate her need for a third medical leave in less than 12 months.

Gilbert took a month off last October for a medical procedure. Shortly after returning to work, she took off again for another procedure. When she returned the second time, she filed a Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) request for time off to care for a dependent husband.

In her lawsuit, Gilbert claims her supervisor's request for a doctor's note substantiating her need for a third leave violated her FMLA rights.

According to guidelines on the federal Department of Labor website, FMLA does allow an employee to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave "to care for the employee's spouse, son or daughter, or parent, who has a serious health condition."

The act also "makes it unlawful for any employer to interfere with, restrain, or deny the exercise of any right provided under FMLA."

However, the guidelines also spell out employee responsibilities, which include providing "sufficient information for the employer to determine if the leave may qualify for FMLA protection."

The guidelines specify that employees "may be required to provide a certification and periodic recertification supporting the need for leave."

Now may not be the best time for Gilbert to press her case.

Just last month, Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe warned that the U.S. Postal Service would lose $10 billion in the coming year unless drastic cuts are made. Donahoe announced plans to close more than 250 mail-processing facilities across the country and eliminate up to 35,000 jobs.

If the postal service were a private enterprise, it would have gone out of business decades ago. Streamlining its operations is the only way to sustain the service.

Under the circumstances, you'd think that postal employees would strive to increase their productivity and avoid making themselves seem expendable.

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