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

Are states ready to roll out COVID-19 vaccines?

Claire Hannan, executive director of the nonprofit Association of Immunization Managers, which represents state health officials, said states have been making good progress in their preparations. And we could have several vaccines pretty soon. But states still need more funding, she said. Hannan doesn’t think a lack of additional funding would hold up distribution initially, but it could cause problems down the road. “It’s really worrisome that Congress may not pass funding or that there’s information circulating saying that states don’t need additional funding,” she said.

How is the service industry dealing with the return of coronavirus restrictions?

Without another round of something like the Paycheck Protection Program, which kept a lot of businesses afloat during the pandemic’s early stages, the outlook is bleak for places like restaurants. Some in the San Francisco Bay Area, for example, only got one week of indoor dining back before cases rose and restrictions went back into effect. Restaurant owners are revamping their business models in an effort to survive while waiting to see if they’ll be able to get more aid.

How are hospitals handling the nationwide surge in COVID-19 cases?

As the pandemic surges and more medical professionals themselves are coming down with COVID, nearly 1 in 5 hospitals in the country report having a critical shortage of staff, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services. One of the knock-on effects of staff shortages is that people who have other medical needs are being asked to wait.

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