By Debbie Gregory.
The United States Postal Service (USPS) takes their job very seriously, as they should. Millions of people around the world, not just Americans, count on the USPS for correspondence and transporting packages. The USPS has popularly lived by their unofficial motto: “Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor hail shall keep the postmen from their appointed rounds.” But what does justify a postal worker enough cause to defer their courier duties?
In 2000, the United States Postal Service fired employee Richard Erickson, claiming that he had “abandoned” his job at the post office. But besides being a postal worker, Erickson was also a soldier in the National Guard. At the time he was fired, nearly 14 years ago, Erickson was serving with the 3rd Special Forces Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group.
Erickson was hired by the USPS in 1988, and enlisted into the National Guard in 1990. For twelve years, Erickson claimed that he was a model employee for the USPS, even with ten of those years spent pulling double duty at both jobs. He says that his firing came as a surprise.
“I thought it was a joke at first,” Erickson said. “Here I am, doing my call to duty, what I’m required to do because I’m in the military, and they fire me for it.”
The USPS terminated Erickson, citing that he had surpassed five years’ worth of missed time from his duties as a postal worker. Erickson agrees that he did miss a lot of time from his USPS job, due to legitimate and necessary military training and deployments. But Erickson says that it was not five years’ worth of time.
On December 30, 2013 after 13 years of court battles, Erickson finally received justice. Erickson’s case advanced to the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, which presides over disputed federal personnel actions. The board decided once and for all, that the USPS acted illegally when they terminated Erickson. The board ordered the USPS to reinstate Erickson, and pay him back-pay, benefits and legal fees. Since the back-pay goes back to the year 2000, this could amount to around $2 million.
Erickson, 50, is now a Sgt. Maj. on active duty with the Army. He considers himself fortunate to have had the Army to fall back on when he lost his job with the USPS. In his initial reaction to his victory and reinstatement with the USPS, Erickson indicated that he did not intend to return to the Postal Service, an employer that was disloyal to him. For now, Erickson plans on remaining in the Army.