According to the U.S. Department of Labor, hazard pay is additional compensation for performing dangerous work or work that causes extreme physical discomfort and distress (physical hardship). Traditionally, hazard pay has been associated with jobs like military service, construction, and mining. Due to the risk of COVID-19, however, more employees than ever before are eligible for hazard pay.
Is Hazard Pay Mandatory?
Unfortunately, the federal government does not mandate hazard pay – even for frontline essential workers like grocery store employees, farmworkers, bank tellers, and pharmacists. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not address the subject of hazard pay, but the law does specify that when offered, hazard pay must be included in overtime calculations.
Ultimately, each state makes its own rules for hazard pay. California, for example, has passed several ordinances requiring hazard pay for frontline essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the idea of mandating hazard pay is extremely unpopular with government leaders in Tennessee.
How Much Extra Money Does Hazard Pay Provide?
Employers who offer hazard pay typically decide how much to offer. The U.S. military, for instance, provides $150 to $225 per month for certain dangerous roles and tasks. Many employers determine hazard pay using the number of years each employee has been performing the dangerous role or task, acknowledging that the risk of injury or illness increases with time.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, employers who offer hazard pay typically do so in per-hour increases or wage-percentage premiums. In Los Angeles, “Premium Hazard Pay” is an extra $5 per hour in addition to all other forms of compensation. Employers with salaried employees might raise wages by 10%.
Am I Entitled to Hazard Pay?
Legally, you are not entitled to hazard pay – unless you live in a state or city where hazard pay is mandatory, or hazard pay is included in your employment contract or company policy. If you are offered hazard pay, you are still entitled to overtime, so failure to administer hazard pay correctly could lead to wage and hour claims.
Like many employment law issues, disputes over hazard pay typically involve a breach of contract as opposed to violations of state or federal law, particularly in Tennessee (where hazard pay is by no means mandatory).
Fortunately, Donati Law, PLLC can represent you in your breach-of-contract claim, wage and hour case, or overtime law concern. We have been fighting for Tennessee’s employees since 1980, and our mission is to improve the lives of hardworking people like you.
If you have a hazard pay concern – or any employment-law-related inquiry – please do not hesitate to call us at (901) 209-5500 or contact us online today.