Do Essential Service Workers Qualify for Hazard Pay?

While much of America is working from home for the foreseeable future, there are still a number of people who must go into work, even during the COVID-19 outbreak. Some of these employees may be wondering what hazard pay is and whether or not they’re entitled to it.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, hazard pay is “additional pay for performing hazardous duty or work involving physical hardship.” While the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does mention hazard pay, it doesn’t provide a standardized rate. 

All the same, hazard pay implies an additional pay rate to the standard rate. (Think of it like getting paid time-and-a-half overtime pay versus your normal pay.) Often when people think of hazard pay, they think of emergency responders. 

Today, with the spread of coronavirus, our definition of emergency responders has changed — you may think of them as essential workers, because their necessity is ongoing. Emergency responders and workers on the front line of this situation include delivery drivers, couriers, grocery workers, and healthcare employees.

A number of companies have offered hazard pay to certain eligible employees. These companies include Amazon, Albertsons, Krogers, Safeway, and Whole Foods, according to ABC. That hazard pay amounts to an additional $2 per hour.

However, it is currently at the discretion of companies whether or not they provide hazard pay. Your employer will decide whether or not to pay their employees more. Due to the current economic situation, many employers say they are unable to do so. 

So will essential service workers who go into their workplace during the pandemic get any kind of extra compensation or hazard pay? Maybe at the government level. Senate Democrats have proposed a $25,000 hazard pay plan for essential workers. In this plan, doctors, nurses, truck drivers, janitors, grocery store clerks, and other essential workers would receive roughly a $13 hourly bonus.

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer said this would be called the Heroes Fund and would apply retroactively to the courageous workers keeping our society functioning.

According to The Hill, the benefit “would be capped at $25,000 for workers earning less than $200,000 per year and at $5,000 for those earning more than $200,000.” This proposal also includes a provision offering benefits to families of essential workers who have died as a result of coronavirus.

“As the COVID pandemic has reached alarming new levels, our healthcare system is strained to the max, our economy is strained to the max. Doctors and nurses, medical personnel of all types are putting their lives on the line every single day to fight this disease and save others,” Schumer said on a conference call. “And so are people not in the medical profession but in essential services: grocery store workers, truck drivers, drug store workers and pharmacists.”

For many in these industries, working from home is not an option. The question now is how many of them will be reimbursed for braving a hazard few of us would care to face.

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