Coronavirus drives essential federal employees to sue government for hazard pay

The White House has said it is considering hazard pay for health care workers

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There is an increasing number of calls from essential workers for higher pay as they are exposed to coronavirus-related risks in the course of performing their daily tasks.

The American Federation of Government Employees filed a lawsuit last week on behalf of all its members who were exposed to coronavirus – a “virulent biological” – while performing their jobs. The plaintiffs worked for the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“Each day front-line federal employees willingly risk their health and their families’ health to provide critical services to the American people,” AFGE National President Everett Kelley said in a statement. “It is our hope that the government does right by these employees and pays them the hazardous duty pay they’ve earned.”

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Hazard pay is a form of additional compensation given to employees who are asked to remain at work despite dangerous conditions.

According to the Commerce Department, hazard pay cannot exceed 25 percent of the employee’s rate of basic pay for the day.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are seeking the 25 percent pay differential.

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According to the group, there are likely thousands who would qualify for the pay.

On Monday, President Trump mentioned potentially giving health care workers hazard pay as they help Americans fight against the virus.

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Truck drivers have raised the prospect of hazard pay as they continue to haul freight to destinations ranging from hospitals to residences, ss have workers in the waste management industry, who deal directly with waste thrown out by infected people, and regulated medical waste.

Last week, waste management workers in Pittsburgh refused to work, asking the city for more protection and hazard pay.

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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.

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