DALLAS — A U.S. Postal Service (USPS) mail carrier who died earlier this month after collapsing on his route in a Dallas neighborhood during the Texas summer heat was previously penalized for "unacceptable performance – expanding street time."
Eugene Gates Jr., was disciplined on May 2 for a "stationary event," according to the National Association of Letter Carriers Branch 132 President Kimetra Lewis.
A stationary event is when a letter carrier's scanner reads as idle on a tracker. In these instances, carriers are questioned about inefficiencies in their performance and potentially penalized for stopping along their route.
Lewis said USPS started monitoring stationary events in May. She described the discipline as an infraction for lack of productivity.
A letter of discipline obtained by WFAA, which was sent to Gates, stated he was issued the letter for "unacceptable performance – expanding street time." The letter states that Gates stopped by the USPS office twice – once in the morning and again in the afternoon – and also says that he stopped "so many times on [his] way back to the station, it took [him] 45 minutes" longer than it should've to return to the office at the end of his shift.
The letter says an investigative review was conducted on May 11, notes that Gates' stationary event was "in violation of postal rules and regulations," and warns that "future deficiencies will result in more severe disciplinary actions, including removal from the Postal Service."
Lewis said Gates was with USPS since November 1987 before he died while delivering mail on June 20. This was the only disciplinary letter she is aware of that he received in his 36 years with the company.
While the cause of Gates' death is still unknown, it is sparking conversations about the working conditions of USPS letter carriers.
Lewis said she received a message on Friday from a concerned employee at the Oak Lawn Post Office, who said management had sent a message to Oak Lawn letter carriers on their scanner that read: "BEAT THE HEAT!!! NO STATIONARY EVENTS; KEEP IT MOVING!"
Lewis shared the alleged photo of that scanner message with WFAA. It is below.
Lewis said she is worried that monitoring stationary events will make carriers put their health at risk in hot temperatures to avoid discipline.
"In light of everything that has happened to Eugene Gates, I find the scanner message to be a slap in the face," Lewis said in a statement to WFAA. "Letter carriers are human beings before they are postal workers. The fact that they chose a career that dictates they work outdoors does not remove the need for the Postal Service to be concerned about their safety and well-being. After reading that message and finding out about the discipline Eugene received, I questioned where is the sensitivity of the Postal Service."
Gates' wife Carla tells WFAA she was never aware of any discipline her husband received at work.
"All I know is that he was a man of dignity and often finished his routes early," Carla Gates said in a statement sent to WFAA. "I was shocked to hear of this disciplinary action; it's the first I've heard of this. It's entirely possible this may have pushed him harder in the heat. Eugene was a professional. He's not going to do anything to jeopardize his job or be written up. He was 66 — of course, he might be a little slower than others. And they tell him to pick up the pace? My God, that's an insult to him."
The USPS declined to comment when asked by WFAA about the disciplinary letter Gates received and the scanner message allegedly sent out to carriers about beating the heat.
"The Postal Service does not comment publicly on personnel matters," a spokesperson with the agency said. "We have no further information to provide at this time."
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