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Hazard Pay: What Is It and Who Can Get It?

Hazard pay or "hazard duty pay" is extra money added to your regular salary. When there is a risk of injury, death, or significant physical hardship, hazard pay is an extra benefit to entice people to take this higher risk.

Hazardous conditions, such as those encountered by law enforcement, health care workers, and truck drivers, may qualify individuals for hazard pay under specific hazard pay laws. This additional compensation serves as an incentive for individuals to undertake hazardous work conditions. It recognizes the challenges and potential dangers associated with their roles.

Understanding the eligibility criteria and applicable hazard pay laws is crucial for those employed in hazardous jobs seeking fair compensation for their essential and demanding contributions.

When Does Hazard Pay Apply?

An employee can get hazard pay when they are performing:

  • Hazardous duties (physically demanding, working around contagious illness, etc.)
  • Tasks in dangerous locations (working with hazardous waste, war zones, washing skyscraper windows, etc.)
  • Jobs with extreme distress (working with violent minors)
  • Jobs with extreme physical discomfort (logging trees, deep-sea fishing, steelworkers, etc.)

Many jobs provide safety gear, safety precautions, and relevant counseling for these situations. When work is adequately alleviated by protective devices, it's generally not subject to hazard pay. But when a serious risk remains, hazard pay is common.

Hazard pay can also apply to frontline workers during pandemics or natural disasters temporarily. For example, during the coronavirus pandemic, some essential workers received additional pay because of the high risk of getting the virus.

Is Hazard Pay Mandatory?

There are no laws making hazard pay mandatory. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not cover hazard pay specifics.

The only mention is that hazard pay counts towards a person's regular pay, instead of counting toward their overtime pay. Overtime pay is generally regulated on a state-by-state basis, except when it comes to hazard pay.

The Equal Pay Act does require employers to pay everyone who does the same job the same. The job title doesn't matter. Any equally hazardous risks mean equal pay for everyone who does the job.

While federal legislation doesn't specifically mandate hazard pay, the issue may be subject to consideration at different government levels. Discussions regarding hazard pay for federal employees, for instance, may involve congressional debates, including the Senate and various federal government entities. Local government regulations and policies can also affect hazard pay determinations. Understanding the landscape of hazard pay requires attention to both federal and statewide legislation, with potential developments influenced by ongoing legislative discussions and decisions by the U.S. Department of Labor.

How Much Hazard Pay Should You Expect?

The specific amount will vary based on the job and tasks involved. Many companies determine hazard pay by the years each employee has been doing the work.

The more years completed, the more hazardous situations the worker has exposed themselves to. For example:

  • One to five years of service qualifies for $50 hazard pay
  • Five to 10 years of service qualifies for $100 hazard pay
  • Eleven to 20 years of service qualifies for $200 hazard pay

The U.S. military provides $150-$225 per month in hazard pay on an ongoing basis for specific roles and tasks.

Who Can Get Hazard Pay

Anyone who does a risky job can ask their manager for hazard pay. Unions and other organizations can also organize efforts to demand hazard pay. Winning the request for hazard pay depends on the situation and the managers or companies involved.

Generally, most companies either have a policy in place already, or they don't offer hazard pay.

Hazard Pay During a Pandemic

Jobs you may not view as hazardous can become risky during illness, war, or natural disasters. These types of employment may be considered dangerous because they are essential services and must stay open:

  • Grocery stores
  • Trash, recycling, water, and sewage
  • Other essential service workers
  • Banks
  • Pharmacists
  • Veterinarians
  • Doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals
  • Government employees
  • Customs officers
  • Police and security
  • Airplanes, trains, taxis, and buses

Is Hazard Pay a Legal Issue?

Technically, you are not owed hazard pay unless:

  • Your manager approved it, then didn't pay you
  • It's provided for in your employment contract, but they refuse to pay you
  • It's in your company's policy, but you're not paid

You do have the option to fight for hazard pay if your job is risky, such as nurses dealing with contagious illnesses.

Employment law attorneys who focus on wage and hour laws for your state can discuss your rights. They can explain what a hazard pay case would look like, your chances of winning, and the next steps to take.

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