N.A. of Postal Supervisors v. U.S. Postal Serv., Case No. 1:19-cv-2236-RCL

CourtUnited States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
Writing for the CourtRoyce C. Lamberth United States District Judge
Docket NumberCase No. 1:19-cv-2236-RCL
Decision Date17 July 2020


Case No. 1:19-cv-2236-RCL


July 17, 2020


The National Association of Postal Supervisors ("the Association") is an organization representing active and retired supervisors of the United States Postal Service ("USPS" or "Postal Service").

The Association sued USPS alleging that USPS undercompensated postal supervisors in violation of federal statute. The Association also alleged that USPS violated federal law by declining to recognize the Association's authority to represent postmasters and certain other managers. USPS moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that the statutory provisions cited by the Association do not provide a private cause of action. The United Postmasters and Managers of America ("Postmasters") intervened in support of USPS and filed a motion to dismiss the Association's claim that it had authority to represent postmasters.

Upon consideration of the complaint (ECF. No. 1), motions to dismiss (ECF Nos. 11, 19), memorandum in opposition (ECF No. 16), replies (ECF Nos. 20, 21), and exhibits filed in support thereof, the Court will GRANT USPS's and Postmasters' motions to dismiss.

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A. The Postal Reorganization Act

The Postal Reorganization Act of 1970 ("PRA"), Pub. L. No. 91-375, 84 Stat. 719 (1970), created USPS as "an independent establishment of the executive branch of the Government of the United States," 39 U.S.C. § 201, with broad internal operating powers, id. § 401. Under the PRA, USPS establishes compensation policies after negotiations with employee representatives. See id. §§ 1202-09. Collective bargaining units represent non-managerial employees in discussions governed by National Labor Relations Board ("NLRB") policies. Id. § 1202.

In contrast, supervisory and managerial personnel are expressly excluded from collective bargaining and NLRB policies. Id. § 1202(1). Instead, managerial and supervisory personnel are represented by "recognized organizations" which are "entitled to participate directly in the planning and development of pay policies and schedules, fringe benefit programs, and other programs relating to supervisory and other managerial employees." Id. § 1004(b). Recognized organizations review USPS's compensation proposals and provide recommendations. Id. § 1004(d)(1)(B). USPS is not required to accept but only "give any recommendation from the organization full and fair consideration." Id. § 1004(d)(1)(C).

If a recognized organization is dissatisfied with a USPS compensation decision, the organization may request the creation of a fact-finding panel. Id. § 1004(f)(1). USPS and the recognized organization present their compensation proposals to a panel of three experts on managerial compensation policies. Id. §§ 1004(f)(2)-(3). After reviewing both sides, the panel issues its own recommendations to USPS. Id. § 1004(f)(4). Just as with the recognized organization's recommendations, Congress only instructed USPS to "give full and fair consideration to the panel's recommendation." Id. § 1004(f)(5).

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Separately, a recognized organization may ask for a panel to review the "effectiveness" of USPS employment policy procedures. Id. § 1004(g). Under this process, the panel provides recommendations directly to Congress. Id.

B. Factual Background

This action involves proposed compensation policies for Executive and Administrative Schedule ("EAS") employees, described as "the nearly 50,000 managers, supervisors, and other middle-management employees who are not members of collective bargaining units." Compl. ¶ 1, ECF No. 1. The Association, a recognized organization, claims to represent approximately 27,000 active and retired EAS employees, which include "active and retired USPS managers, supervisors, postmasters, and other professionals." Id. at ¶ 2 (emphasis added).

USPS sent the Association a proposed EAS pay and benefits package for fiscal years 2016-19 that addressed areas such as "Pay for Performance, Salary Ranges, Health Benefits Contribution, Promotional Pay Increase, Position Upgrade, and Work Groups." Id. at ¶¶ 16-17. For the next nine months, the Association provided recommendations to USPS regarding changes to the pay package "via meetings, letters, and emails." Id. at ¶ 18.

USPS then issued its final proposed pay package. Id. at ¶ 19. Dissatisfied with USPS's decision, the Association requested a factfinding panel to review USPS's proposal in accordance with the dispute resolution mechanism provided by 39 U.S.C. § 1004(f). Id. at ¶ 20. Both USPS and the Association presented exhibits and witnesses to the panel during a two-day hearing. Id. at ¶ 64. Afterwards, the panel issued a report incorporating several of the Association's recommendations, including pay increases for certain Association-represented employees, a revision of salary differentials between supervisors and their subordinates, and the establishment of a working group to review future compensation policies. Id. at ¶¶ 66-68. In response, USPS

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issued a revised pay package agreeing to engage a working group but declining to implement pay increases or adjust the differential. Id. at ¶¶ 69-74.

The Association then instituted this action raising the following claims:

1) USPS violated 39 U.S.C. § 1003(a) and 39 U.S.C. § 101(c) by failing to pay comparably to the private sector (see id. ¶¶ 80-87);

2) USPS violated 39 U.S.C. § 1004(a) by failing to provide for an adequate supervisory differential adjustment (see id. at ¶¶ 88-92);

3) USPS violated 39 U.S.C. § 1004(a) by failing to provide sufficient compensation to attract or retain qualified management personnel and failing to establish a compensation program adequate to maintain a well-motivated workforce (see id. at ¶¶ 93-99);

4) USPS violated 39 U.S.C § 1004(b) by failing to consult the Association regarding compensation for different categories of employees (see id. at ¶¶ 100-06); and

5) USPS violated 39 U.S.C. § 1004(b) by refusing to recognize the Association's authority to represent postmasters (see id. at ¶¶ 107-15).

The complaint seeks a declaratory judgment, an injunction requiring USPS to adjust future pay, and purported injunction requiring USPS to provide retroactive pay increases. See id. at ¶ 116. USPS moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that the PRA provisions cited by the Association do not provide a private cause of action. See USPS Mot. to Dismiss 6-9, ECF No. 11. USPS further argued that the Association did not have authority to represent certain groups, including employees, managers, and postmasters. See id. at 15-20. Intervenor Postmasters separately moved to dismiss Claim 5, arguing that Postmasters—not the Association—was the recognized organization with the authority to represent postmasters. See Postmasters Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 19.


Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) requires courts to dismiss any case wherein the plaintiff has failed to state a legal claim upon which relief can be granted. "To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to

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relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). When deciding a motion to dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), courts must construe the pleadings broadly and assume that the facts are as the plaintiff alleges; however, "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Additionally, courts are not obligated to "accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation." Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986). Moreover, "a plaintiff who fails to show that the law authorizes him to bring his lawsuit fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Eagle Tr. Fund v. U.S. Postal Serv., 365 F. Supp. 3d 57, 63 (D.D.C. 2019) (citing Sacks v. Reynolds Sec., Inc., 593 F.2d 1234, 1239 (D.C. Cir. 1978)).


A. Private Cause of Action

It is well-settled that the "violation of a federal statute alone is inadequate to support a private cause of action." Tax Analysts v. IRS, 214 F.3d 179, 185 (D.C. Cir. 2000). Instead, courts must first look to the statute's text to determine if the statute provides an express cause of action. See Johnson v. Interstate Mgmt. Co., LLC, 849 F.3d 1093, 1097 (D.C. Cir. 2017) ("[i]f the text of a statute does not provide a cause of action, there ordinarily is no cause of action.").

Implied causes of action are permitted "on rare occasions," but only if the court finds a clear congressional intent "to create a 'private right' and a 'private remedy.'" Id. (citing Alexander v. Sandoval, 532 U.S. 275, 286 (2001)). "[T]hat is a high bar to clear" because "[the court] ha[s] to conclude that Congress intended to provide a cause of action even though Congress did not expressly say as much in the text of the statute." Id. at 1097-98 (emphasis in original).

If a statute does not provide an express or implied cause of action, a plaintiff suing a federal agency in federal court may obtain a legal remedy through the Administrative Procedure Act

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("APA"). See 5 U.S.C. § 704 ("Agency action made reviewable by statute and final agency action for which there is no other adequate remedy in a court are subject to judicial review.").

Non-statutory review is the final option for judicial review of administrative agency activities. See Mittleman v. Postal Reg. Comm'n, 757 F.3d 300, 307 (D.C. Cir. 2014). However, non-statutory review is unavailable if the court finds either that (a) Congress intended to preclude judicial review or (b) the issues involved are better left to agency discretion. Nat'l Ass'n of Postal Supervisors v. U.S. Postal Serv. ("NAPS"), 602...

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