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Employees across a number of industries who are required to work during the coronavirus outbreak have been raising concerns about their safety, and they have been requesting increased protections and hazard pay.
Hazard pay is a form of additional compensation given to employees who are asked to remain at work despite dangerous conditions. As defined by the Department of Labor, it refers to work that causes “extreme physical discomfort and distress, which is not adequately alleviated by protective devices” so long as the hardship has not been considered in the classification of the position.
There are two types of conditions that can classify workers for the pay: physical hardship and hazardous duties.
Physical hardships include exposure to extreme temperatures for long periods of time, and exposure to fumes, dust or noise, according to the Commerce Department. Hazardous duties are defined as performing work where an accident could result in serious injury or death, like at extreme heights.
The pay is granted when the head of a group determines the hazardous conditions have changed since the position description was written or when qualified employees is unable to control or reduce the hazard to an insignificant level.
According to the Commerce Department, hazard pay cannot exceed 25 percent of the employee’s rate of basic pay for the day.
Truck drivers have raised the prospect of hazard pay as they continue to haul freight to destinations ranging from hospitals to residences. As have workers in the waste management industry, who deal directly with waste thrown out by infected people, and regulated medical waste.
On Wednesday, refuse workers in Pittsburgh refused to work, asking the city for more protection and hazard pay.
A number of companies have already begun offering employees increased pay. Retailers Costco and Target, for example, have said they will pay employees an extra $2 per hour until April 5 and May 2, respectively. Walmart will give $300 bonuses to full-time workers and $150 to part-time employees.