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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."

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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