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Hazard pay case: Feds fight on

When the novel coronavirus hit U.S. shores last year, within weeks it was clear that many feds—especially frontline workers—suddenly faced new and heightened on-the-job dangers. 

Several elements of the federal workforce pushed—often unsuccessfully—for rapid reconfiguration of work, greater protections and hazardous duty pay. 

Now, over a year later, one major union has announced it is pressing on with a lawsuit it filed back in March 2020, when the pandemic began, on behalf of its members seeking hazard pay. 

The legal action, brought by the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), seeks 25% hazardous duty pay for “exposed General Schedule employees,” as well as 8% environmental differential pay for “exposed Wage Grade employees,” the union states in an Aug. 25 release. 

“AFGE has been leading the fight to ensure that federal government workers who have put their health and safety on the line by reporting to work in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic are compensated according to the law,” the union said. 

The union also notes that since it sued, the government has not stepped up to fulfill what in the union’s opinion are its obligation to provide the hazard pay. Indeed, the government has delayed action on the suit. The union spotlights a Dec. 2020 motion to dismiss filed by the government, a motion arguing that under long extant federal law such employee classes are not entitled under the circumstances to the increases—and, under a separate 2001 law applying exclusively to the Transportation Security Administration, neither are that agency’s employees. 

“We continue to hear from federal employees across the country who have been exposed to the coronavirus without proper protection and without proper compensation, and we will keep members updated as we await a decision from the judge on both of these issues,” AFGE said. 

After enduring the initial months of government delay, AFGE filed its response to the motion to dismiss in February. The union simply wants to get on with its case, and to “certify class and collective actions on behalf of all similarly situated federal employees.” 

However, delays have continued as the federal courts have not moved forward with adjudicating the matter. Further complicating and potentially slowing the case, the union notes that a federal court has dismissed a similar suit brought by another class of federal employees. 

Reader comments

Fri, Aug 27, 2021 terry

To the dentist: It's the dentists but also a lot of others too like TSA who are right in people's faces too.

Wed, Aug 25, 2021

I know there are others but those of us in the dental field have really taken a beating with this virus. For crying out loud, we are right in patients faces all day and obviously they can’t wear a mask during dental treatment. Why is this so difficult for them to understand? Oh yeah, because they aren’t the ones putting themselves in harms way.

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