The pandemic is at the top of everyone’s minds these days. Hopefully, they worry about it from the safety of their home while working remotely. Unfortunately, this is not the case, so some employees could find themselves working with co-workers and customers. Even if both parties are masked, the worker may wonder if there anything they can do to justify this additional risk of being on the job during a pandemic.
Perhaps the worker can request hazard pay, which is extra money in addition to their regular salary. Unions may insist upon hazard pay as part of the employment agreement. Hazard pay can be applied when workers face a higher than usual risk of injury or death regularly as part of the work or on a more occasional basis. It can involve:
- Hazardous tasks: Some activity that is more physically demanding than the normal part of the job
- Hazardous locations: Cleaning skyscraper windows, working underground, or on a commercial fishing boat
- Hazardous conditions: Working where there are individuals prone to violence or under conditions with extreme heat or cold
Must employers pay it?
The employer is bound to keep workers safe, but the Fair Labor Standards Act has no laws outlining mandatory hazard pay conditions. It is considered part of regular pay and not overtime (which is compulsory for eligible workers logging more than 40 hours per week).
Common pay scale
Generally, more seasoned employees earn more hazard pay. It could be along the lines of:
- $50 for employees with less than five years of job experience.
- $100 for employees with six to 10 years of job experience.
- $200 for employees with 11 or more years of job experience.
When is hazard pay valid?
The employer or manager dictates hazard pay. They would need to approve it, have it put in an employment contract, or have it as the company’s policy. The worker can consider this as money owed if their employment arrangement meets at least one of the above conditions.
Asking for hazard pay during an economic downturn can be risky. However, those with concerns about their working conditions may need to speak with a knowledgeable employment law attorney. Whether it is unsafe work conditions or collecting unpaid hazard pay, these legal professionals can help workers during these difficult times.