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."