Skip to main Content
Mat-Su

Former Wasilla postmaster demoted to custodian after investigation upholds harassment claims

WASILLA — A sexual harassment investigation of the former Wasilla postmaster recommended that he be ousted, and now he has a new Postal Service job as a custodian in Anchorage at substantially less pay.

Eric Schuler, originally hired by the U.S. Postal Service in 1997, left the postmaster job at a $100,658 salary in December, according to a spokesman. Schuler remained on unpaid administrative leave until this month.

The Wasilla Post Office (Zaz Hollander / Alaska Dispatch News)

In mid-May, he started a new, $56,434 custodial position in Anchorage, according to Postal Service spokesman John Friess in Denver.

Schuler's change in jobs followed an August 2016 proposed removal notice he received from the Postal Service's Alaska district human resources manager.

According to the 12-page document issued last year, Schuler made inappropriate comments laden with sexual innuendo to an employee and hugged and kissed a job candidate behind a locked door.

His actions violated Postal Service rules including those governing discrimination and harassment, according to the "Notice of Proposed Removal" signed by human resources manager Robert D. Ward Jr.

Schuler could not be reached for comment.

Agency spokesman Friess said he could not respond to most questions, including whether the demotion was linked to the harassment complaints, because they involved a personnel matter.

Postal Service officials declined to say whether Schuler appealed the removal notice or whether his new job is the result of a settlement.

"The U.S. Postal Service is committed to providing a work environment free of sexual harassment and inappropriate sexual conduct," Friess said in an emailed statement. "The Postal Service's workplace must be one in which all employees are treated with dignity and respect by supervisors, subordinates and co-workers. All appropriate rules per negotiated labor contract stipulations were followed in this case."

The harassment complaints came from two women in 2015 and 2016, according to the removal notice, which Ward signed.

Writing to Schuler, a Postal Service official said the allegations from the women were substantiated by "external evidence such as text messages and the statements of witnesses regarding what you told them."

A woman who applied for a job in March 2016 said Schuler hugged and kissed her behind a door he locked during a job interview, then promised the job was hers, according to the notice. She also said he sent texts asking to meet again to go over paperwork.

As the investigation into that complaint was underway, a Postal Service supervisor told postal inspectors that another employee "received inappropriate texts" from Schuler, according to the removal notice.

That employee later told inspectors that Schuler began flirting with her at work in December 2015 and she rebuffed him, according to the notice. He asked her to "keep the 'problem' " between the two of them and she agreed because "part of her was scared and intimidated knowing … she had no guarantee of work hours."

The employee told inspectors that Schuler invited her to lunch, arranged to be alone with her, and sent inappropriate texts calling her "my love" and then apologizing in the same message.

She said she had been sexually harassed at other jobs and reported it to managers "but nothing happened so she thought there would be no value" in reporting Schuler. She was afraid co-workers would think that her recent promotion to a supervisory position was due to her association with him "and she also did not want her name associated with a complaint of sexual harassment."

Another employee saw the woman crying and told a union steward. The steward told Schuler he needed to apologize to the woman.

She said Schuler did apologize, the notice states, but he also said: "What are they going to do to me? I don't care if they all know I'm infatuated with you."

The situation got better, the employee told inspectors, but Schuler later sent at least one more inappropriate text.

Making suggestive comments to a subordinate "had the potential to expose the Postal Service to significant liability," wrote Ward, the human resources manager.

Ward called the actions that prompted the two complaints "extremely serious" and said they showed that Schuler lacked the judgment and self-control expected of postal employees.

"The facts demonstrate you can no longer be trusted to continue with the Postal Service in any capacity, let alone in a position of authority," he wrote.

For more newsletters click here

Local news matters.

Support independent, local journalism in Alaska.

Comments