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US Postal Service Seeks Relief From Testing, Vaccine Rules

FILE - A U.S. postal worker makes a delivery in Warren, Mich., April 2, 2020.
FILE - A U.S. postal worker makes a delivery in Warren, Mich., April 2, 2020.

The U.S. Postal Service has asked the Biden administration for temporary relief from new vaccine or testing requirements covering large businesses for its 650,000 employees, warning of potentially "catastrophic" impacts.

Deputy Postmaster Doug Tulino, in a letter dated Tuesday and seen by Reuters, asked the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to delay by 120 days the deadline for USPS to comply with the agency's vaccine-or-testing mandate for large businesses, covering more than 80 million American workers.

USPS, one of the largest civilian U.S. employers, says it cannot meet the requirements under the current deadlines and also faces time-consuming legal requirements to use and collect medical information and collective bargaining requirements.

USPS also cited a lack of adequate staffing and says it will need to train "tens of thousands of local supervisors and managers" to monitor employees’ compliance.

USPS wants approval to continue using its current COVID-19 mitigation policies while the request is being decided. USPS has 30,000 U.S. locations.

"We respectfully suggest that the nation cannot afford the additional potential substantial harm that would be engendered if the ability of the Postal Service to deliver mail and packages is significantly negatively impacted," USPS wrote.

Earlier rules

USPS is not covered by Biden's separate, earlier rules, which mandated that 3.5 million federal workers be vaccinated or win medical or religious exemptions by November 22.

USPS warned that the latest rules were likely to result in the loss of "many employees." Requiring USPS "to absorb what could inevitably be a dramatic loss of employees at a time when the labor market is extremely tight and in the middle of the Postal Service’s peak season would have a potentially catastrophic impact on our ability to provide service,” it added.

OSHA did not immediately comment. The Emergency Temporary Standard issued in November requires employees in organizations with more than 100 workers to be vaccinated or tested weekly and subjected to strict face mask requirements. Last month, a U.S. appeals court reinstated the ETS mandate.

The Supreme Court on Friday is set to hear arguments on the issue.

OSHA extended compliance time last month, saying it would not issue citations before January 10 and would not issue citations for noncompliance with testing requirements before February 9 if employers were working to comply.

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    Reuters is a news agency founded in 1851 and owned by the Thomson Reuters Corporation based in Toronto, Canada. One of the world's largest wire services, it provides financial news as well as international coverage in over 16 languages to more than 1000 newspapers and 750 broadcasters around the globe.