Do I Qualify for Hazard Pay During the COVID-19 Pandemic?

Leary – COVID Blog(1)

While some Georgia workers are required to work from home or make other adjustments due to the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, many other employees are at the front lines to support their communities through these uncertain times. Fortunately, there are some who will be rewarded for their efforts and willingness to take risks. According to a March 31, 2020 article published by Atlanta’s NPR affiliate WABE, designated city and civilian employees will qualify for hazard pay. Anyone working in positions related to public safety, water supply, aviation, waste, transportation, and other areas will take home extra pay as a reward for working under strenuous circumstances.

Hazard pay is a complex topic in the area of employment law, especially since there’s a lot of confusion regarding who can earn it and how much. A knowledgeable Georgia employment disputes lawyer can provide information customized to your situation, but some answers to frequently asked questions about hazard pay may help.

How does hazard pay work? When a position requires employees to take on significant risks to perform job-related tasks, employers may offer hazard pay as an extra incentive fill these roles. These amounts are added onto your regular hourly rate or salary, but no employer is required to offer hazard pay. The only mention of the subject in the Fair Labor Standards Act is that the value does count towards your regular rate of pay for purposes of calculating overtime.

Who could be entitled to hazard pay for COVID-19 related work? Though not mandatory, there are certain jobs in which hazard pay is the norm irrespective of the current pandemic. Based upon the implications of the novel coronavirus, more employers may offer it for:

  • Jobs that are extremely demanding from a physical standpoint;
  • Roles that put an employee in close contact with contagious illness;
  • Positions that put a worker in dangerous conditions, such as working with used medical supplies and hazardous waste; and,
  • Jobs that involve high levels of distress, which would certainly be the case during the COVID-19 crisis.

What’s the standard rate of hazard pay? The specific amount varies because your employer makes the decision on the terms of hazard payments. Some companies will base the amount on how long you’ve been in your current position, since the presumption is that you’ve endured serious risks during your period of employment. Others will pay at an amount that correlates to Department of Labor rules on overtime pay, which is 1.5 times the regular rate of pay that applies to your position.

Do I have rights if I don’t receive proper compensation for hazard pay? Your employer isn’t required to offer extra wages by law, but you are entitled to hazard pay under certain circumstances. Essentially, the requirement is one of contractual duty, so you may have rights if:

  • Your supervisor approved hazard pay, but your employer denied it;
  • You have an employment contract that requires hazard pay; or,
  • Your company policies mandate hazard pay according to designated factors.

Get Legal Help from a Georgia Employment Disputes Attorney
Hopefully, these answers to common questions about hazard pay offer some insight on how relevant laws apply to the unique circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic. Though employers aren’t required to offer it, they can be held accountable if they fail to make good on a promise to pay those most at risk. Our team at the Vaughn Law Firm has extensive experience in a wide range of employment law issues, including topics related to hazard pay. To learn how we can help, please call 877.615.9495 or going online to set up a free consultation at our office in Decatur, GA.