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

Which businesses are allowed to reopen right now? And which businesses are actually doing so?

As a patchwork of states start to reopen, businesses that fall into a gray area are wondering when they can reopen. In many places, salons are still shuttered. Bars are mostly closed, too, although restaurants may be allowed to ramp up, depending on the state. “It’s kind of all over the place,” said Elizabeth Milito of the National Federation of Independent Business.

Will you be able to go on vacation this summer?

There’s no chance that this summer will be a normal season for vacations either in the U.S. or internationally. But that doesn’t mean a trip will be impossible. People will just have to be smart about it. That could mean vacations closer to home, especially with gas prices so low. Air travel will be possible this summer, even if it is a very different experience than usual.

When does the expanded COVID-19 unemployment insurance run out?

The CARES Act, passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump in March, authorized extra unemployment payments, increasing the amount of money, and broadening who qualifies. The increased unemployment benefits have an expiration date — an extra $600 per week the act authorized ends on July 31.

You can find answers to more questions here.

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