Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, hazard pay has taken on a new dimension. That’s especially true with hazard pay laws in California.
Generally, hazard pay is “additional pay for performing hazardous duty or work involving physical hardship” according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Historically, it has been associated with physically difficult work like mining, construction, dangerous jobs in the military, etc.
Before the pandemic, we would not have categorized work in grocery stores and retail drug stores as hazardous. COVID-19 has changed all that. Employees in grocery stores and retail pharmacies have an increased risk of exposure to and contraction of COVID-19 because of the work they do dealing with the public every day.
Hazard Pay and California
Hazard pay for certain front-line and essential workers was provided early on when the pandemic hit. However, much of that additional pay ended last summer.
The HEROES Act proposed last year did include federal funds to provide hazard pay, but the measure did not pass. And as we have seen before — particularly with minimum wage and paid leave — states and cities step in when the federal government does not act.
Recently, we have seen a steady influx of California cities passing temporary hazard pay ordinances, which generally require large grocery and/or drug stores to pay workers additional hazard pay for the increased risk of exposure to COVID-19 that comes from doing their jobs.
In just the first three months of 2021, more than 20 California cities and counties have passed hazard pay ordinances. Most have an associated labor law posting.
Generally, these ordinances apply to larger grocery or retail pharmacy stores. Some ordinances have threshold levels of a certain number of employees and/or a certain amount of retail space. Some require a certain number of workers in their locations in the specific city. Most last around 120 days. As always, each jurisdiction is a bit different.
We expect this activity to continue at the city level in California. Let’s look at what we know right now.
California Cities and Counties with Hazard Pay