Law360 (September 21, 2021, 8:58 PM EDT) — Two D.C. Circuit judges took the U.S. Postal Service to task Tuesday, saying it had failed to fulfill statutory requirements to provide a differential in pay rates between thousands of supervisors and the employees they supervise and had not set compensation comparable to that provided in the private sector.
U.S. Circuit Judges Harry T. Edwards and Cornelia Pillard asserted this view while hearing oral arguments in the National Association of Postal Supervisors’ appeal to revive its lawsuit accusing the agency of underpaying supervisors. A D.C. federal judge had dismissed the case in July 2020, finding that the Postal Reorganization Act, or PRA, which the worker group accused the Postal Service of violating, requires the
agency to consult employee representatives about pay scales and other matters but does not allow them to seek judicial review.
U.S. Department of Justice attorney Sean Janda, who argued on behalf of the agency, told a three-judge panel Tuesday that U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth correctly threw out the dispute because the law the group cited does not authorize complaints to force it into compliance. Moreover, Congress created the independent agency with the determination that the Postal Service must have the freedom to control costs and manage itself, Janda argued.
But Circuit Judge Harry T. Edwards was not convinced by Janda’s notion that the statutory provisions at issue in the case are merely “policy goals” that don’t limit the Postal Service’s authority enforceable through non-statutory or ultra vires review.
The statute says the agency “shall” have a policy that provides adequate and reasonable differentials in rates of pay as well as compensation and benefits comparable to those paid by the private sector, the judge reasoned.