COVID-19

COVID-19 prompts questions about which jobs are classed “hazardous”

Kimberly Adams Apr 7, 2020
HTML EMBED:
COPY
Amazon employees hold a protest over conditions at the company's Staten Island distribution facility on March 30 during the COVID-19 pandemic. Spencer Platt/Getty Images
COVID-19

COVID-19 prompts questions about which jobs are classed “hazardous”

Kimberly Adams Apr 7, 2020
Amazon employees hold a protest over conditions at the company's Staten Island distribution facility on March 30 during the COVID-19 pandemic. Spencer Platt/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

“Hazard pay” is a squishy term. Many jobs once considered pretty safe now involve a high level of risk because they may expose people to COVID-19. That’s led an increasing number of workers who have to be out and about to demand hazard pay.

Who gets hazard pay and for how long is a question more businesses are going to have to answer as this drags on. Whether work is “hazardous” is pretty much up to individual companies to determine.

“The tendency is for hazard pay to be focused on employees who are exposed to things in the course of their work,” said Jennifer Trivedi, an assistant professor at the University of Delaware’s Disaster Research Center.

But COVID-19 has changed what’s considered hazardous. Jonathan Segal, a partner at the law firm Duane Morris, pointed out that hazard is not confined to health care right now.

“It’s those courageous people that are working in supermarkets and pharmacies,” Segal said. “They are taking risk to keep all of us alive.”

And that can be said for lots of workers these days. 

“My role has changed dramatically,” said Monica Moody, a 22-year-old packer at an Amazon warehouse in North Carolina. “I have to be even more careful than I already was being, inside that building.”

Moody is a member of United for Respect, which is calling for better working conditions and pay. Amazon has temporarily added $2 an hour of additional pay for workers. Moody thinks it should be permanent. And that, Trivedi said, is an issue for any company thinking about hazard pay.

“How do you decide that the risk has reduced enough that you no longer need hazard pay?” Trivedi said.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What’s the latest on the extra COVID-19 unemployment benefits?

As of now, those $600-a-week payments will stop at the end of July. For many, unemployment payments have been a lifeline, but one that is about to end, if nothing changes. The debate over whether or not to extend these benefits continues among lawmakers.

With a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases, are restaurants and bars shutting back down?

The latest jobs report shows that 4.8 million Americans went back to work in June. More than 30% of those job gains were from bars and restaurants. But those industries are in trouble again. For example, because of the steep rise in COVID-19 cases in Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, increased restrictions on restaurant capacities and closed bars. It’s created a logistical nightmare.

Which businesses got Paycheck Protection Program loans?

The numbers are in — well, at least in part. The federal government has released the names of companies that received loans of $150,000 or more through the Paycheck Protection Program.

Some of the companies people are surprised got loans include Kanye West’s fashion line, Yeezy, TGI Fridays and P.F. Chang’s. The companies you might not recognize, particularly some smaller businesses, were able to hire back staff or partially reopen thanks to the loans.

You can find answers to more questions on unemployment benefits and COVID-19 here.

As a nonprofit news organization, our future depends on listeners like you who believe in the power of public service journalism.

Your investment in Marketplace helps us remain paywall-free and ensures everyone has access to trustworthy, unbiased news and information, regardless of their ability to pay.

Donate today — in any amount — to become a Marketplace Investor. Now more than ever, your commitment makes a difference.