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Hazard Pay

Published August 3, 2020

In light of Covid-19, officials are working on community relief efforts targeted towards frontline and essential workers.

Hazard pay is a proposal that comes up frequently with talks about compensating those who are continually putting their lives at risk. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, “[h]azard pay means additional pay for performing a hazardous duty or work involving physical hardship. Work duty that causes extreme physical discomfort and distress which is not adequately alleviated by protective devices is deemed to impose a physical hardship.” Some provide no definition but characterize it as “a form of incentive pay." While the characterization of the term may vary, the allocation of hazard pay exposes inequities that exist between those who receive it.

Though distinctions in proposals do exist, hazard pay applies to the vast majority of first responders and frontline workers. Yet, there seems to be a glaring similarity in these payment plans, as historically marginalized groups often fall through the cracks. Undocumented immigrants, for one, who serve on the frontlines are exempt from receiving any government aid. Part-time workers are also not covered to receive hazard pay though they are also putting their safety at risk. Covid-19 has severely impacted communities of color, low-paid workers, and undocumented immigrants, yet these very communities are not included in economic relief plans. The foodservice and home health industry are both heavily employed by women of color and undocumented immigrants. These workers, however, are not included in hazard pay proposals.

Equal Rights Advocates provides a great rundown on why hazard pay is important and how we can support more inclusive measures of support for our communities.