Background

The U.S. Postal Service’s national screening process for external hiring of non-career employees involves four key groups: the Human Resources Shared Services Center (HRSSC), a Postal Service contractor, district Human Resources (HR) officials, and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).

The process is initiated when the HRSSC receives an employment application. The HRSSC then creates an applicant electronic file and requests the contractor to initiate applicable checks (county criminal record, motor vehicle, and drug testing). The HRSSC receives the results and the district HR official reviews to assist in making hiring decisions.

If screening results identify a driving infraction, district HR officials must evaluate against a list of automatic disqualifiers and criteria. District HR officials cannot automatically disqualify applicants with criminal convictions in their past. Special consideration, such as the applicants’ age at the time of conviction, nature of the offense, length of time elapsed since offense, etc., must be factored in determining the applicant’s suitability for employment.

After the applicant has passed the initial screening and receives a job offer, OPM conducts a comprehensive background investigation and district HR officials review and verify the results. If the applicant accepts the offer, a performance evaluation is conducted at 90 days of employment and maintained in the electronic official personnel file.

During fiscal year (FY) 2015 through FY 2016, Quarter 3, the Los Angeles (LA) district was one of the Postal Service’s top districts in hiring new employees, with over 6,000 non-career employees. Also, the LA District’s annual turnover rate of 53 percent for non-career employees was higher than the national performance assessment turnover goal of 35 percent, resulting in increased hiring.

Our objective was to assess the Postal Service’s employee background screening process for non-career employees to determine whether it ensured that individuals selected for employment in the LA District were suitable to maintain the security of the mail and uphold the public trust.

This is the first in a series of audits that will assess Postal Service employee background screening.

What the OIG Found

Los Angeles District HR officials did not consistently comply with processes to ensure individuals they hired were suitable to maintain the security of the mail and uphold the public trust. We evaluated a statistically selected sample of 183 applicants of non-career positions. LA district HR officials could not provide 55 percent (101 of the 183) of the pre-employment files requested, and many of those that were received were incomplete.

Of the 183 applicants, 33 were hired in the LA District and we found:

  • Eleven of 33 (33 percent) had automatic disqualifying driving eligibility factors, such as one or more license suspensions within 3-5 years and one or more traffic violations in the past 12 months, and 
  • Seven of 33 (21 percent) had disqualifying criminal suitability factors without any documented justification as to why the hire was still appropriate.

In addition, of the eligible OPM investigations and 90-day performance evaluations reviewed, we found:

  • Three of 20 (15 percent) of the OPM investigation results were not verified; and
  • Thirteen of 13 (100 percent) 90-day performance evaluation reviews were not maintained in the electronic official personnel file, as required.

These conditions occurred due to underlying pressure to meet operational demands coupled with high turnover rates and high applicant volume in the district. Another contributing factor was temporary use of other employees in the hiring process without adequate training, formal documented process guidance, enhanced oversight, or quality reviews.

When background screening processes are not followed, there is an increased risk to mail security, customers, employees, assets and upholding the public trust.

What the OIG Recommended 

We recommended management develop written guidance for district HR officials to use as a reference for the background screening process, establish a process to conduct and document periodic quality reviews of pre-employment files, ensure that employee evaluations and probationary reports are completed and forwarded to officials for review and action, and reevaluate the suitability and eligibility of employees with automatic motor vehicle infractions or disqualifying criminal suitability factors who LA District officials screened in FYs 2015-2016 but for whom there is no documented justification.

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