490 Recognition and Awards

491 Overview

491.1 Policy and Scope

491.11 Scope

This subchapter establishes the conditions and procedures for the recognition of all Postal Service employees except the following:

  1. Executives and officers assigned to the Postal Career Executive Service (PCES). (Recognition award policy for PCES employees can be found in Handbook EL-380.)
  2. Employees of the Office of Inspector General.
  3. Employees of the Postal Regulatory Commission.
491.12 Policy

The Recognition and Awards Program is intended to recognize employees who have achieved outstanding performance, have superior competence, or have performed some other significant accomplishment. The program is not intended to provide incentives to employees to meet predetermined goals. The program has been broadly designed to ensure that the recognition and award needs of all organizations and functional areas are met. The awards offered range from a letter of appreciation to $12,500 in cash.

Recognition falls into seven broad categories:

  1. Certificate of Appreciation.
  2. Service Awards, for which noncash recognition items, such as Service Award Pins, Retirement Recognition, and Posthumous Service Certificates are awarded.
  3. Informal Awards, limited to noncash tangible items valued at less than $75.
  4. Formal Awards, including cash, cash equivalents, gift certificates, and noncash tangible items.
  5. Special Awards, including but not limited to, the Vice President Award, the Postmaster General Award, and the Benjamin Franklin Award.
  6. Other Awards, including the Contest Award for officially sanctioned Postal Service contest winners, and the Safety Award.
  7. Inspection Service Awards, including cash and noncash awards specially designed for employees of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

Exhibit 491.1 provides a summary of service recognition and incentive rewards.

Exhibit 491.1 

Service Recognition and Incentive Awards

 

Category

ELM Reference

Employees Eligible

Others Eligible

Description

Certificate of Appreciation

492

All

Contractors and customers

Noncash recognition.

Service Awards

Service Award Pin

493.2

Career

None

Noncash recognition.

Service Award Certificates for Retirement and Posthumous Service Recognition

493.3

Career

None

Noncash recognition.

Informal Award

494

All

Contractors

Noncash tangible item, less than $75 in value.

Formal Awards

Spot Award

495.2

Non-Inspection Service, career employees

None

Cash, cash equivalent, gift certificate, or noncash tangible item, up to $3,000 in value.*

Noncareer Gift Certificate

495.3

Noncareer

None

Gift certificate valued from $1 to $100.

Quality Step Increase

495.4

Career bargaining unit on step schedule

None

Change in base pay.

Special Awards

Team Award

496.2

Nonbargaining, Non-Inspection Service career employees

None

Cash, cash equivalent, or noncash tangible item, from $50 to $2,000 in value.

Vice President Award

496.3

Career

None

Cash, up to $5,000 per award.

Postmaster General Award

496.4

Career

None

Cash, up to $12,500 per award.

ELT Award

496.5

Career

None

Cash, up to $10,000 per award.

Benjamin Franklin Award

496.6

Designated by the Postmaster General

None

Noncash recognition.

Other Awards

Contest Award

497.2

All

None

Noncash items, up to $500 in value (see 497.23 and 626.1).

Safety Award

497.3

Career

None

Noncash items, up to $500 in value (see 843).

Inspection Service Awards

Informal Award

498.2

Career Inspection Service

None

Cash equivalent, gift certificate, or noncash tangible item, up to $3,000 in value.

Nonexecutive Award

498.3

Career Inspection Service

None

Cash award up to $5,000.

*See 491.3 for descriptions of cash equivalent, gift certificate, and noncash tangible awards.

491.2 Management Control

 

Postal Service managers must use appropriate review and control procedures to identify the superior work of individuals, programs, and operational areas. Managers must ensure that related actions, such as performance evaluations, are fully considered to maintain compatibility between awards and other relevant factors. All levels of management are responsible for ensuring that all employees are treated fairly and equitably and for providing a workplace environment characterized by recognition and celebration of business success. Vice presidents, district managers, senior and lead plant managers, and the chief Human Resources officer periodically audit the awards process.

491.3 Awards

491.31 Cash Awards

A cash award is issued in the form of a check by Accounting Services. All cash awards are considered ordinary income and are subject to the following deductions: (a) federal, state, Medicare, and Social Security (if applicable); and (b) involuntary deductions such as child support and tax levies. (Various other payroll deductions are not withheld from the cash award.) Since these payroll deductions are made from cash awards, the net amount of the check will be less than the requested dollar amount.

491.32 Cash Equivalent Awards

A cash equivalent award is a product purchased from an authorized Postal Service supplier, which is immediately convertible to cash, such as a gift check. All cash equivalent awards, regardless of value, are considered ordinary income and are subject to income tax. All cash equivalent awards must be reported in eAwards under the award category appropriate for the type of employee and reason for the award. Reporting of cash equivalents should occur in the same pay period in which they are received by the employee, but must occur in the same calendar year to avoid tax reporting discrepancies. Cash equivalent awards are automatically grossed up by eAwards so that the Postal Service assumes the tax liability for the recipient. The additional tax liability is charged to the finance number indicated in eAwards when reported.

491.33 Noncash Tangible Awards
491.331 Authorized

Noncash tangible awards authorized by the Postal Service are described below. See 491.332 for noncash tangible awards that are prohibited.

  1. Informal Recognition, such as pins, pen and pencil sets, coffee mugs, apparel, plaques, event tickets, etc., valued at less than $75.
    1. Reporting. Individual noncash tangible award items valued at less than $75 are not normally considered taxable income and are not reported in eAwards. However, management must track all noncash tangible items valued at less than $75 received by an employee during the calendar year. If the aggregate total of all noncash tangible items valued at less than $75 received by an employee in a calendar year meets or exceeds $75, the total amount must be reported in eAwards under the appropriate noncash tangible award type for the employee category and reason for the award.
    2. Event tickets. Tickets to a specific event, game, play, concert, movie, etc., for a definite time and place that cannot be exchanged for another event, time, or place, etc., and are valued at less than $75 are informal awards and do not constitute reportable income. However, any of the preceding items valued at $75 or more, or any certificate that can be exchanged or redeemed for a ticket or tickets to an event at the time and place of the recipient’s choice, regardless of value, are considered gift certificates and must be reported in eAwards under the appropriate noncash award type (see 491.34).
  2. Formal Noncash Tangible Recognition, such as clothing, event tickets, merchandise, electronics, and other personal property valued at $75 or more (see 491.332). The market value of formal noncash tangible award items may range from $75 up to $3,000 depending on the reason for the award (Spot Award, Team Award, Contest Award, etc.). Individual noncash tangible items valued at $75 or more are always considered taxable income, and should be reported in eAwards in the same pay period in which they are received under the appropriate noncash award type for the employee category and reason for the award. Reporting must take place in the same calendar year to avoid tax reporting discrepancies. Noncash tangible awards are automatically grossed up by eAwards so that the Postal Service assumes the tax liability for the recipient. The additional tax liability for grossed up awards is charged to the finance number indicated when reported in eAwards.
491.332 Prohibited

The purchase of any season or partial season sporting or entertainment ticket is prohibited. The purchase of any single event ticket (sporting events, movies, and concerts, etc.) that costs $75 or more requires advance approval, in the form of an email or letter, from the Vice President, Controller.

491.34 Gift Certificates

The value of gift certificate awards may range from $1 to $3,000 depending on the reason for the award (Spot Award, Contest Award, etc.) and employee category (career, noncareer).

  1. All gift certificates, regardless of dollar value, are considered taxable income by the Internal Revenue Service and should be reported in eAwards in the pay period they are received under the appropriate noncash award category for the type of employee and reason for the award. Reporting must take place in the same calendar year to avoid tax reporting discrepancies.
  2. The eAwards system withholds appropriate payroll deductions from the recipient’s paycheck relevant to the pay period the gift certificate is reported in eAwards.
  3. Gift certificates valued at $50 or more presented to all employees are grossed up by eAwards so that the Postal Service assumes the tax liability for the recipient. The additional tax liability is charged to the finance number indicated when reported in eAwards.

491.4 Privacy Act Considerations

Award records contain personal information; therefore, such records must be handled and disclosed only as stipulated in the Privacy Act and implementing instructions (see Handbook AS-353, Guide to Privacy, the Freedom of Information Act, and Records Management). Records of awards received by employees are maintained in the Postal Service Privacy Act system of records, as follows: 100.000, General Personnel Records; 100.200, Employee Performance Records; 100.400, Personnel Compensation and Payroll Records.

491.5 Presentation Ceremonies

Whenever feasible, installation heads should (a) coordinate publicity with communications staff or the area communications program specialist, and (b) provide an appropriate ceremony for each award in the presence of the employee’s managers and coworkers.

491.6 Documenting Awards

Cash, cash equivalent, gift certificate, and reportable noncash tangible awards are documented electronically in eAwards for 7 years after processing. In addition, awards may be documented by a record (e.g., copy of the nomination, letter to the recipient, copy of a certificate) filed in the recipient’s electronic official personnel folder (eOPF).