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Sep 02

City Manager's Message: 8-13-2020: Hazard pay clarifications

Posted on September 2, 2020 at 4:35 PM by Don Mann

Since sending out information about the hazard pay program yesterday, I have had many questions concerning why certain positions were not included in the program. Typically, those questions relate to employees believing they should have been given hazard pay because they had to do their normal responsibilities, whether at home or in the office. Additionally, some employees have suggested that having not been granted hazard pay somehow means that management does not appreciate their work during this very difficult time. I appreciate all the inquiries and questions as I absolutely want to put some of these concerns to rest.

All of our employees are essential to our community, and are much appreciated. Unlike many cities in the region, we chose not to layoff or furlough any employees during the pandemic "stay at home" and shut-down orders. That said, all employees were required to work whether at home, in the office or field or doing a completely different job responsibility (such as library and community center workers who were reassigned since their facilities were closed and telework was not a long-term option) — to get paid.

Many did come into the office, and thus believe that should have qualified them for the hazard pay. However, as I noted yesterday, the federal requirements clearly state that there needed to be an enhanced level of risk that could not be mitigated with other protective actions such as masking, social distancing, plastic barriers, etc. Thus, the positions chosen were only those that still had a significant level of risk despite such actions. 

To help illustrate, all social services employees had to work to help maintain benefits and assistance to their clients. Some teleworked. Others came into the office. While employees have interacted with the public once the building re-opened, they were masked as were visitors and other workplace protections had been installed. These protections were not in place for the employees who did qualify for the hazard pay. Those who did qualify had to go into clients’ homes (such as adult or child protective services workers) or provide services directly to the homeless. While they would wear a mask, they could not compel their clients to wear masks in their homes or outdoors. Additionally, social distancing was not always practical in clients’ homes. Regardless of whether the employees worked at home, in the office or in the field (as described above), each provided an invaluable service.

I hope this explanation helps you to better understand the hazard pay program. Again, I am sorry that we could not provide an enhanced bonus for everyone. However, I do stand by the decisions that were made. Failure to follow the federal guidance could have financial harm to the City and taxpayers, so we must do our best to honor those requirements. 

I will, though, remind us that the Council authorizes the annual citizen satisfaction bonus - which was advanced to a July payment this year - as a reminder of the importance of each of you to our overall effectiveness as an organization and a community. I thank each of you for your dedication to our City. You make a meaningful difference in their lives of our residents every day!

— Mary

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