COVID-19

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

Kimberly Adams Apr 7, 2020
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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
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“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 do vaccines mean for economic recovery?

COVID-19 is not going anywhere anytime soon, according to expert witnesses who testified at a recent hearing held by the Joint Economic Committee. Put simply, we can’t eradicate the virus because it infects other species, and there will also be folks who choose not to get the vaccine or don’t mount an immune response, according to Dr. Céline Gounder at NYU School of Medicine & Bellevue Hospital. “That means we can’t only rely on vaccination,” Gounder said. She said the four phases of recovering from the pandemic are ending the emergency, relaxing mitigation measures, getting to herd immunity and having long-term control.

Can businesses deny you entry if you don’t have a vaccine passport?

As more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the economy begins reopening, some businesses are requiring proof of vaccination to enter their premises. The concept of a vaccine passport has raised ethical questions about data privacy and potential discrimination against the unvaccinated. However, legal experts say businesses have the right to deny entrance to those who can’t show proof.

What do I need to know about tax season this year?

Glad you asked! We have a whole separate FAQ section on that. Some quick hits: The deadline has been extended from April 15 to May 17 for individuals. Also, millions of people received unemployment benefits in 2020 — up to $10,200 of which will now be tax-free for those with an adjusted gross income of less than $150,000. And, for those who filed before the American Rescue Plan passed, simply put, you do not need to file an amended return at the moment. Find answers to the rest of your questions here.

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