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AFGE expands COVID hazard pay suit

Four months after initially filing for hazard pay for employees at the Bureau of Prisons, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Veterans Affairs who were exposed to the coronavirus at work, the American Federation of Government Employees has amended its suit, adding plaintiffs from several new agencies.

The initial lawsuit initially supported claims of workers who were seeking pay bumps of 25% to compensate them for the dangers of being exposed to coronavirus while on duty.

Now employees at the Department of Labor, Social Security Administration, several Defense Department components and Department of Homeland Security agencies such as U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Transportation Security Administration, Customs and Border Protection, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement had been added as plaintiffs to the suit.

The amended complaint alleges that the general schedule plaintiffs are entitled to a 25% hazard pay differential under Title 5, because they were exposed to hazardous working conditions beyond their jobs’ classifications. Likewise, wage grade plaintiffs are entitled to an 8% environmental pay increase for exposure to micro-organisms.

In a statement, AFGE National President Everett Kelley said that tens of thousands of federal employees had contracted COVID-19 since the original suit was filed March 30, and he urged both the court and Congress to intervene.

“Whether it’s failing to take commonsense precautions and to provide [personal protective equipment] or not allowing people to telework – the federal workforce is suffering,” said Heidi Burakiewicz, partner at Kalijarvi, Chuzi, Newman & Fitch D.C., the law firm representing AFGE. “All of these men and women, and many others working in jobs across the federal government, have met the legal standards outlined in Title 5, and the government needs to give them their hazard pay differential.”

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