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Chapter 1 Compliance with Statutory Policies
G. FLEXIBLE SPENDING ACCOUNTS
Employees continue to take advantage of flexible spending accounts (FSAs) to pay for certain health care and dependent care expenses with contributions made through pretax payroll deductions. First offered in 1992 to certain nonbargaining unit employees, FSAs are now available to all employees. Employees were enrolled as follows:
Average Annual Contribution
4. Workplace Environment
A. VOE SURVEY
Every quarter, one-fourth of career employees receive the Postal Service’s Voice of the Employee (VOE) survey at their work locations. Participation is voluntary. Employees are given time on-the-clock to complete the surveys and seal them in postage-paid envelopes that are mailed to the contractor for data analysis and quarterly reporting. Six of the questions are used as key indicators of workplace environment factors that can impact employee performance and business outcomes. Survey results help identify organizational issues and establish improvement strategies. For 2006 the national employee response rate was 64%. The national index score was 63.4% favorable, down slightly from 63.7%.
B. EMPLOYEE ASSISTANCE PROGRAM/WORKPLACE ENVIRONMENT IMPROVEMENT
The Postal Service Employee Assistance Program (EAP) provides free, voluntary, confidential, in-person counseling services to employees and family members from licensed, professional counselors. Counselors are available 24-hours a day, 7-days a week, in convenient locations to assist employees and family members with difficulties that affect their personal lives and their work. Issues typically include emotional, financial, legal, chemical dependency, marital, and family matters.
EAP continued to provide consultation to managers and supervisors regarding issues not only involving individual workers but also the environment where they work. Ongoing preventive efforts are in place to assist employees at all levels in managing difficult situations, such as manager coaching and educational seminars on communication and stress management. EAP also provides key support in areas such as defusing issues and conducting grief groups after a critical incident (e.g., suicide, hurricane, armed robbery, and accidental death).
In 2006, 53,500 employees and family members received counseling, information, and consultation from EAP. Of the more than 22,000 employees who received counseling, 49% reported some type of problem that affected their work performance. EAP staff responded to 342 critical incidents and provided assistance to more than 16,000 employees after these incidents. In the aftermath of the hurricanes in the fall of 2005, EAP staff visited affected facilities more than 400 times to provide support.
Health and wellness seminars and training opportunities on topics ranging from stress management, to elder care, to substance abuse were provided to more than 37,000 employees.
C. VIOLENCE PREVENTION AND CRISIS MANAGEMENT
The Workplace Environment Advisory Committee is composed of representatives of Postal Service Human Resources, unions, and management associations. Working closely with the Postal Inspection Service and EAP/Workplace Environment Improvement (WEI), this committee uses a standard protocol to identify potential “troubled work sites.” These are Postal Service sites that may be susceptible to threatening or other undesirable behavior as a result of individual or systemic problems. In addition, EAP/WEI assists the field in ensuring that local threat assessment and crisis management teams are in place and that desired training is provided. Finally, EAP/WEI staff members continually respond to potential threats and crisis incidents to ensure prompt response, swift resolution, and maximum safety of Postal Service employees.
D. EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY
The Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) function was reorganized into two components: the National Office of EEO Compliance and Appeals Programs, which handles EEO policy and informal complaint processing, and the National EEO Investigative Services Office (NEEOISO), which oversees the formal EEO complaint process. The reorganization brings EEO activity directly to the attention of the highest levels of the organization so that issues and barriers to workplace relationships are identified and addressed. It also strengthens accountability in the EEO system, promotes early resolution of workplace disputes, and supports strategies to improve the workplace environment. The separation of the informal and formal processes allows each group to concentrate their efforts and apply the most appropriate tools.
The National Office of EEO Compliance and Appeals Programs oversees all EEO field offices. Field offices handle the informal complaint process including EEO counseling and alternative dispute resolution programs such as the REDRESS mediation program (Resolve Employment Disputes Reach Equitable Solutions Swiftly). In 2006 employees elected mediation in 82% of eligible cases; 73% of those complaints were resolved. Throughout the year, training was held for supervisors and managers on the importance of equal employment opportunity, open communication, and the benefits of resolving complaints at the lowest possible level. The timeliness of processing informal complaints improved from 68% in 2004 to 98% last year. Additionally, 2006 showed that success at attempts to resolve formal complaints dropped 12%, an indication that more issues are being resolved earlier in the process.
The Postal Service’s goal is to produce high quality and timely complaint processing in accordance with Equal Employment Opportunity Commission regulations. NEEOISO implemented a centralized intake system for EEO complaints, using a toll-free nationwide number to record EEO contacts. Additionally, NEEOISO began processing final agency decisions and hearing requests. The use of contract investigators and final agency decision writers helps maintain the neutrality of the investigative and decision process. NEEOISO is now providing services to other federal