A federal employees’ union is suing the government for hazard pay, claiming workers have been given inadequate protection against exposure to the coronavirus.
In a proposed class action filed Friday in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, the American Federation of Government Employees asked for a 25% hazardous-duty pay differential for each day federal workers are required to work near infected objects or people “without protective devices that afford complete protection.”
According to the lawsuit, the proposed class could included more than 100,000 government employees.
The issue of hazard pay for exposed workers has taken on increased importance as the coronavirus has taken hold across the U.S. On Monday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said hazard pay for workers on the front lines of battling the coronavirus will be included in the next stimulus round.
In its lawsuit, the union says federal regulation provides for hazard pay whenever government employees work with or in close proximity to “virulent biologicals,” the definition of which the coronavirus clearly meets.
One named plaintiff in the lawsuit, a correctional officer at the federal prison complex in Oakdale, Louisiana, said he was only given a pair of gloves when he transported an infected inmate to a hospital on March 19.
Two other plaintiffs in the case also work in the Oakdale prison. Another works for the Department of Veterans Affairs in Portland, Oregon, while a fifth works for the Department of Agriculture in Pine Bluff, Arkansas.
The case is Braswell v. The United States of America, 20-cv-359, U.S. Court of Federal Claims.
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