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Adventist Postal Carriers Claim Religious Discrimination

The mail carriers claimed the post office changed their schedule and failed to accommodate their religious beliefs.

The U.S. Postal Service may not have known the kind of impact their decision to end Sunday delivery in Loma Linda would have on some of their mail carriers.

It was big enough to motivate four mail carriers to file charges of religious discrimination and failure to accommodate against their employer through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The carriers are Seventh-day Adventists, a faith that observes the Sabbath on Saturday. From sundown Friday through sundown Saturday, members of the faith participate only in family and spiritually oriented activities.

That means no work.

But in April, the postal service ended Sunday delivery in Loma Linda, putting the city on the same Monday through Saturday delivery that most of the country gets, putting carriers onto the Saturday shift.

“The only reason we came here was to keep our Sabbaths,” said Art Cortina, 44, of Fontana.

He has worked for 10 years at the Loma Linda facility, which functioned as a sorting facility for most of those years. And the schedule worked perfectly. He is an elder at the Fontana Spanish Seventh-Day Adventist Church, and taught the Sabbath School.

Because of the new schedule, he has backed out of many of those duties, he said.

“We’re taking the position that the decision to change the schedule was itself a discriminatory decision,” said Alan J. Reinach, Executive Director of the Church State Council, who is representing the mail carriers. “The post office is very well aware that there are multiple Adventists working at the Loma Linda post office.”

For about 80 years, the post office accommodated the community, which has deep Adventist roots.

But on April 1, residents received notices of the schedule change. Post office officials said they had to make the change because it became costly to pay employees a Sunday premium. Sunday delivery also means mail is delivered a day late, officials said.

“If you mail a letter from Loma Linda, it sits there until Monday because we don’t have transportation that comes and goes all day on Sundays, and nobody works at distribution plants on Sundays,” Loma Linda postmaster Dan Mesa said in April.

Reinach sees the argument over the cost as ineffective. While there is a contract through the union, the two parties could have looked into negotiating a memorandum of understanding, or MOU’s, a separate agreement that would could have been mutually beneficial. Municipalities commonly use MOU’s.

The four carriers have a mediation meeting with Postal Service representatives on June 14 as part of the Federal Administrative Dispute system. The two parties will exhaust all available avenues, including hearings and appeals, to resolve the issue before heading to court, Reinach said. But the process could take years, he said.

“We’re not threatening a lawsuit,” Reinach said. “We are trying to resolve a conflict. Nobody wants a lawsuit. These folks just want to keep their jobs, support their families and live."

T. June 07, 2011 at 04:07 PM
Red tape and bad management make me crazy. Rather than countless meetings it would be a simple solution to make a clause on the four employees that they are scheduled Monday through Friday - only. Holiday overtime could be on Sunday ...which will continue to happen despite the cancellation of Sunday delivery. Accomodating special needs is not the mountain that posturing that is often made of mole hills. Any future hires could also fit this format for whatever day of religious belief necessary. Simple solutions are best without the wasted time and monies
iris Fincher June 07, 2011 at 05:05 PM
It seems to me that it would be a simple matter to schedule these 4 employees on Monday through Friday. This sounds like much ado about nothing. Iris Fincher
Alvin Jochum June 08, 2011 at 12:29 AM
I use to work with an atheist who did not want to work on any Friday the 13th. The Post Office gave no special treatment to him.This is the same in as much as the employer sets the work schedule to suit the operation of the office.If it doesn`t violate any contract provisions, the employees have no standing.
Penny June 08, 2011 at 01:35 AM
Delivery is Monday through Saturday for the rest of the country and our distribution center works 7 days a week. I didn't like working Sundays at my part time job but it was a requirement of the company. It is what it is, deal with it and be thankful you have a job-my husband has been laid off 27 months. So my main comment is "do you want cheese with your wine." I've never worked with so many people who want special treatment and special benefits at the detriment of other employees, customers and the survival of the company.
koll June 08, 2011 at 02:04 AM
when these employees signed all the paperwork to GET their job one of the questions was "The requirements of this job may require you to work 7 (seven) days a week on various tours in diferrent locations. The second question of the paperwork stated do you have any "religious obligations that would cause you to not fulfill the requrements of your position" At that point the adventists should have said honestly religious obligations, 7 days a week? Oh yea I would not be able to fulfill my job requirements. But instead they worked and took in the money and now when it is convenient they want to have their days off? Why is it fair for these employees to not work Sunday but the average Joe/Mary has to now work on Sunday when it is not their turn. How is that fair that is reverse discrimination. Screw these idiots, work Sunday or find a new job I am pretty sure they can find someone to take their place in this job market!!!!
T. June 08, 2011 at 04:25 AM
Iris ....couldn't agree with you more. Alvin as a Christian I would have given the atheist the day off - the employees have standing because of an 80 year policy and that fact that their Saturday off was dicussed in the scheduling and interview process. Penny you state that your schedule was a requirement of the job ... these employess state that the choose to work here because of an 80 year policy of not having to work on Saturday. It could hardly be detremental to schedule them Monday through Friday, perhaps incovenient when someone else wants a Friday off but not detrimental. Koll ranting and raving gives no solution ... your statements are so far off that one has to wonder if you bothered to read the article or just misunderstood it. No one is contesting working on Sunday, so to call them idiots is embarassing to you. While general post office requirements may have put the 7 day tour requirement, the Loma Linda office accomodated religious beliefs for 80 years ... and that attracted these employees to that location. The move was to get rid of the Sunday schedule as a cost savings measure not to require it, this is where you have it backwards. Again without all the fuss, a simple Monday to Friday schedule would seem a simple solution without arbitration and all of this hullabaloo.
Ry June 08, 2011 at 06:04 AM
Thank you, T. I was about to post a long comment, but I'll instead second your well put post. The previous commenters are obviously not familiar with the situation. Also- to Penny regarding what you called "special treatment & special benefits:" you do realize that religious discrimination is against the law, right?
Robert R sullard June 08, 2011 at 02:03 PM
I am goig to make up my own religion so I can take off what ever day feels good to me. Maybe I will call it the " I am to tired to work today" church of Im full of shit. people in this world make sacrifices everyday to keep a job and the fighting men and women in the military make sacrifices ( sometimes of their lives) for or freedom to choose where and when we work. If you dont like the job or the money or the schedule, You are FREE to go somewhere else. Get off your religious high horse and move on.
brazilb June 08, 2011 at 03:40 PM
There are so many issues here. The main thing that bothered me about this whole setup was that these employees were getting premium pay for working Sundays and had no problem taking it. The Post Office goes to extremes to try and satisfy everyone's belief. It bothers me that we dont have a US flag on our uniforms because we might offend someone because of their beliefs.
cekeller1956 June 08, 2011 at 04:56 PM
I say render unto Caesar that which belongs to Caesar.
L June 08, 2011 at 04:59 PM
I read about "deep roots Adventist community" etc, etc... for 80 years they made exceptions, but only 4 people are being affected? The PO could have changed their policy and grand-fathered in current Adventist career employees but NO Sunday premium pay. After all, Sunday premium pay is based on the principle of asking people to work on a religious/family day. For Adventists, it's just another day. Technology has made this world 24/7/365. We all have to work days we would rather not.
vic120 June 08, 2011 at 06:24 PM
I have an Idea, why don't they just not pay them the sunday premium. whew!!! that was tough. also, they've worked out the plant issue for 80 years, what changed? you mean to tell me they all got premium pay? I work in Florida, mail moves 24-7
Carl Buick June 08, 2011 at 08:50 PM
We don't wear the flag patch on our uniforms because of the US flag code, not because we might offend someone. (flag patch may be affixed to the uniform of military personnel, firemen, policemen, and members of patriotic organizations.)
Susan June 09, 2011 at 12:05 AM
With the financial situation the Postal Service is in right now they should not be required by contract to pay them the extra Sunday premium when it is the employee requesting this schedule change not a requirement of the company. As for giving them a Monday-Friday job assignment that is unfair to the other employees, especially senior employees, who don't get every weekend off. I have a split schedule with Sunday/Wednesday off and trust me I would not be happy if someone with less time came in and got a Saturday/Sunday position without it being offered the proper way which is by bid and the senior person gets it.

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