At the beginning of the pandemic while we, as attorneys, were able to work remotely from the safety of our homes, we kept hearing horror stories from federal employees about their experiences working on the front lines. The pandemic was especially difficult for employees who were required to continue performing their jobs in-person. In addition to the expected risks and challenges of being a correctional officer, a food safety inspector, or working in any of the critical jobs that cannot be done remotely, federal employees had to worry if they were going to get sick from going into work (many did), or if they were going to bring home a disease that would hurt the families they were working to support (again, many did).
KCNF wanted to do something to help our clients and friends, so in March 2020, in partnership with the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), we filed the first lawsuit against the United States government seeking hazardous duty pay and environmental differential pay on behalf of covered federal employees who were exposed to COVID-19 while performing their official duties. Our case, Braswell et al. v. United States, No. 20-00359, is pending before the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.
We are encouraging all eligible federal employees to complete the necessary forms to join and participate in the case. Employees are eligible if they meet all five of the conditions listed below:
- You were a federal employee; and
- You have been exposed to COVID-19 during the performance of your official duties; and
- Your position is eligible for hazardous duty and/or environmental differential pay; and
- Your position description does not take into account exposure to infectious diseases like COVID-19; and
- You have not been paid hazardous duty and/or environmental differential pay for all of your working time in which you were exposed to COVID-19.
If you qualify, our lawsuit seeks a 25% hazard pay differential for General Schedule employees and an 8% environmental pay increase for Wage Grade employees. The difference between GS and WG pay differentials in our lawsuit is due to the different entitlements these employees have under the law.
Because of the specific rules of the Court of Federal Claims, each employee must individually complete the forms to join the case – employees are not automatically included. In order to join the case, please go to www.hazardpaylawsuit.com and complete the forms through our secure website. In addition to a link to sign up for the case, we provide additional information on the website about the case, the status of the pleadings, and our fee agreement. We have set up an email address, at firstname.lastname@example.org, where you can contact us for additional information; please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions you may have.
Robert DePriest is a partner at KCNF, and co-counsel on the hazard pay case discussed above.