May 06, 2020

Wyden Calls for Hazard Pay, Increased Safety Measures for Federal Employees and Contractors


Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., is urging the Trump administration to take immediate steps to support federal employees and contractors during the COVID-19 crisis.

In a bipartisan letter to Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Acting Director Russell T. Vought and Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Acting Director Michael J. Rigas, Wyden and 18 of his colleagues emphasized several actions that the administration should take now to support these crucial public servants.

The senators urged OPM to use its existing authority to implement hazard pay for federal employees, which provides for pay increases of up to 25 percent. They wrote, “Many federal workers and contractor employees are putting themselves at increased risk of COVID-19 to work on the frontlines of the public health response and continue essential public-facing services. We appreciate the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) guidance on recruitment, retention, and relocation bonuses in response to COVID-19, and we urge you to build on this by using existing hazard pay authority to provide a 25% increase in basic pay for employees in essential, frontline, or public-facing positions whose jobs cannot be accomplished while maintaining the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) social distancing recommendations. The statute provides for hazardous pay differentials for duties involving unusual hazards that are not typical for the job, which certainly describes the current situation for many workers.”

The senators also called for OPM and OMB to clarify and fully support maximum telework and to allow at-risk employees to take leave for their safety when necessary. They continued, “Agencies should receive clear criteria to make greater use of safety leave, including how to weigh costs and benefits in order to reach a determination… Safety leave also has positive effects to mitigate community spread within federal facilities and surrounding communities. This is especially true in large federal facilities with many employees and in communities that rely on mass transit.”

The senators urged OMB and OPM to provide employees with the equipment and supplies they need to stay safe on the job, noting, “The need for adequate supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) remains a significant concern for frontline and essential workers across the country, including federal employees and contractors, who have not had access to the PPE as well as cleaning and disinfecting supplies they need to do their job safely. Congress has provided significant resources to address these needs for workers across the country, as well as appropriations for several agencies to procure the safety equipment and supplies needed for their workforces. All federal employees and contractors – like workers across the country – should have everything they need to stay safe on the job.”

In addition to these issues, the senators also addressed the continuity of pay for federal contract employees and asked the administration to ensure that they are working collaboratively with employees and unions on these matters. 

Joining Wyden on the letter were U.S. Sens. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., Susan Collins, R-Maine, Angus King, Jr., I-Maine, Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, Edward Markey, D-Mass., Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Gary Peters, D-Mich., Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Benjamin Cardin, D-Md., Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., Jack Reed, D-R.I., Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.

A copy of the letter is available here.