Memo Raises Concern For Local Postal Workers

Workers Would Have To Prove Anthrax Exposure Occurred On The Job

Posted: 6:35 p.m. EST October 30, 2001 (WJXT)

JACKSONVILLE -- Eyewitness News obtained a memo Tuesday sent to local postal workers earlier this month that said if they contract anthrax they must prove that they were exposed to it at the post office.

U.S. Postmaster General John Potter said Tuesday that the Postal Service is doing everything possible to help employees.

"For 18 days, we have been working to enhance the safety of our employees and their workplaces," Potter said.

Some local postal workers said they wonder if that is true.

Jim Piggott reported that the memo was sent out earlier this month by the plant manager at the main post office on Kings Road.

Piggott reported that the memo was only distributed to management but it addressed how the anthrax threat is being handled by the Jacksonville facility and how employees should react to it.

The first part of the memo said, "We had a report of a clerk on the caller window asking customers if they wanted gloves to pick up the mail. This is not authorized and must be stopped. It was at the general mail facility in Jacksonville."

"We are looking at the safety and well-being of employees and customers alike," post office spokesman Bill Tyler said. "We have issued gloves and masks for their protection. However, to be handing out gloves to the public, does that cross the line?"

Another part of the memo involves the health of postal workers. It said, "If employees want to be tested for anthrax exposure, they must do it at their own expense. If they test positive (which is extremely unlikely), they have to prove they contracted it at work."

Postal officials said that is the policy of the Department of Labor.

"We lifted it right off the OWCP (Web) page. It reads, 'The Office of Workman's Compensation Programs will not pay a medical bill for an exam due to potential exposure,'" Tyler said.

Postal workers who did not want to be identified told Piggott that they are concerned but could not comment further. Postal union officials also declined to comment.