Hazard Pay: What Is It and Who Can Get It?
What Is Hazard Pay?
Hazard pay or "hazard duty pay" is extra money added to your regular salary. When there is a risk of injury or death, hazard pay is an extra benefit to entice people to take a higher risk with their job.
When Does Hazard Pay Apply?
An employee can get hazard pay when they are doing:
- Hazardous tasks or jobs (physically demanding, working around contagious illness, etc.)
- Tasks in dangerous locations (working with hazardous waste, washing skyscraper windows, etc.)
- Jobs with extreme distress (working with violent minors)
- Jobs with extreme physical discomfort (logging trees, deep-sea fishing, steelworkers)
Most jobs provide protective devices, safety gear, safety precautions, and relevant counseling for these types of situations. But, because a serious risk remains, hazard pay is common.
Hazard pay can also apply temporarily during pandemics or natural disasters.
Is Hazard Pay Mandatory?
There are no laws making hazard pay mandatory. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not cover hazard pay specifics.
The only mention is that hazard pay counts towards a person's regular pay, instead of counting toward their overtime pay. Overtime pay is generally regulated on a state-by-state basis, except when it comes to hazard pay.
How Much Hazard Pay Should I Expect?
The specific amount will vary based on the job and tasks involved. Many companies determine hazard pay by the years each employee has been doing the work.
The more years completed, the more hazardous situations the worker has exposed themselves to. For example:
- 1-5 years of service qualifies for $50 hazard pay
- 5-10 years of service qualifies for $100 hazard pay
- 11-20 years of service qualifies for $200 hazard pay
The U.S. military provides $150-$225 per month in hazard pay on an ongoing basis for specific roles and tasks.
Who Can Get Hazard Pay?
Anyone who does a risky job can ask their manager for hazard pay. Unions and other organizations can also organize efforts to demand hazard pay. Winning the request for hazard pay depends on the situation and the managers or companies involved.
Generally, most companies either have a policy in place already, or they do not offer hazard pay.
Hazard Pay During a Pandemic
Jobs you may not view as hazardous can become risky during illness, war, or natural disasters.
These types of employment may be considered dangerous because they are "essential services" and must stay open:
- Grocery stores
- Trash, recycling, water, and sewage
- Other essential service workers
- Doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals
- Government employees
- Customs officers
- Police and security
- Airplanes, trains, taxis, and buses
Is Hazard Pay a Legal Issue?
Technically you are not owed hazard pay unless:
- Your manager approved it then did not pay you
- It is within your employment contract but they refuse to pay you
- It is in your company's policy but you are not paid
You do have the option to fight for hazard pay if your job is risky, such as nurses dealing with contagious illnesses.
Employment law attorneys who focus on wage and hour laws for your state can discuss your rights. They can explain what a hazard pay case would look like, your chances of winning, and the next steps to take.