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Is Your Hazard Pay Raise About To Expire? Here’s What You Need To Know.

Katie Lyon
Katie Lyon Student – University of California, Berkeley
Katie Lyon is an undergraduate student at UC Berkeley studying Political Economy and Conservation & Resource Studies, and hopes to pursue a career in environmental policy.
  • Image by:
    leo2014 from Pixabay
Person in Personal Protective Equipment (PPW), essential worker receiving hazard pay during the coronavirus pandemic.

You may have heard about “hazard pay” or “patriot pay,” a financial bonus given to those working on the frontlines during the Coronavirus crisis. 

Right now, there are seven different proposals for the second stimulus bill. 

All of them include language about who may qualify for hazard pay and how much they should be given. 

Some say that hazard pay should be given to all essential workers, not just those working in health care

Right now, many employers are voluntarily paying essential workers more.

 

 One study found that 46 percent of stores deemed “essential” gave their employees hazard bonuses. 

 

That same study found that only 29 percent of healthcare workers were given bonuses. 

 

Many of these policies are soon to expire, despite projections showing a likely spike in COVID cases this summer.

Essential workers are likely to face even greater risks. If you are an essential worker or think you are entitled to hazard pay, here are the answers to some questions you’re likely wondering about. 

What is hazard pay?

Essentially, hazard pay is a danger-induced financial bonus. 

It can take the form of a raise, an hourly bonus, or a lump sump that will appear in your paycheck for a pre-determined amount of time.  

While hazard pay was traditionally given to members of the military, some companies are now paying their essential workers extra money for the increased risk of working during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Who has been getting hazard pay?

Amazon, Target, Walmart, Kroger, Costco, CVS Pharmacy, and Starbucks, are some companies that have been providing workers with hazard bonuses. 

  • Walmart paid a bonus of $300 to its full-time workers, and $150 to its part-time workers, according to the New York Times. Walmart also announced plans to pay another round of bonuses in June.

  • Amazon increased wages in mid-March by $2 per hour and doubled overtime pay

  • Target bumped hourly pay by $2 and instituted pandemic-specific sick leave benefits.

  • CVS is giving bonuses of up to $500 for their store employees, pharmacists, and managers.

When are major companies planning to end hazard pay?

The Los Angeles Times reports that Starbucks will end their hazard pay at the end of May, while Kroger-owned grocery stores have already stopped giving it.

Amazon similarly announced that their $2 per hour hazard pay will finish at the end of the month.

Initially, the LA Times reported that Target would follow suit and end their hazard pay at the same time as other major companies. However, after noting the backlash that Amazon faced for this decision, Target instead decided to extend these benefits until July 4th

While many of these companies have plans to end hazard pay in the coming weeks, public pressure has had an impact. With Target having now extended their end date twice, and Walmart giving a second round of bonuses, these policies are subject to change.

What is the government doing to help? 

The House of Representatives passed a bill, known as the HEROES Act, on May 15th. It includes $200 billion in pay for essential workers, in addition to other benefits for workers affected by coronavirus. 

However, this specific bill is very likely to fail in the Senate. Republican leaders have expressed deep discontent with certain provisions in the HEROES Act, though not explicitly with hazard pay. 

But don’t get too discouraged. 

Both Republicans and Democrats have expressed a willingness to pass another stimulus bill. Despite explicitly rejecting the House’s proposal, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell told Fox News, “There’s a high likelihood we’ll do another [stimulus] bill.” 

Some Republican-proposed alternatives to the HEROES Act include Mitt Romney’s Patriot Pay plan, which would include a monthly bonus of up to $1,920 per month for full-time workers. 

These government solutions are still being negotiated, and thus do not have a concrete date for voting. But with proposals coming from both sides of the aisle, there is hope that another stimulus bill including hazard pay grants will be finalized in the near future.

Do I have any legal rights to demand hazard pay?

For now, no. A law will need to be passed.

But keep an eye on the news, and an eye on your boss.

If the legislation is passed, employers can apply for a hazard pay grant. If funds from this grant are allocated to your employer, they would then be legally required to give hazard pay to their employees.

Until then, the Fair Labor Standards Act sets the federal guidelines for wages and working conditions. It only stipulates that any hazard pay already being paid to employees must be included in overtime calculations. 

However, you do still have legal rights to safe working conditions.

The Harvard Business Review describes the legal obligations of employers during the pandemic, including additional safety precautions and pay for workers who get sick on the job.

Federal laws, including the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), offer you legal protection if you contract COVID-19 as a result of your job. 

 

Legal Disclaimer

This article is intended to convey general information and does not constitute legal advice.

 

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