NASHVILLE (WSMV) — The unions representing the Nashville fire department and metro police employees have filed grievances with the city, claiming more than 140 employees have been unfairly denied COVID-19 hazard pay.
The unions claim the employees were deemed essential and were required to come to work during the pandemic and believed they would qualify for the hazard pay bonuses.
“It’s very disappointing that they somehow got excluded,” Mark Young, president of IAFF Local 140, said.
Young said the roughly 40 fire department employees who were denied range from staff inside buildings to upper-level firefighters.
James Smallwood, president of the Nashville Fraternal Order of Police, said he estimated more than 100 metro police employees were excluded, including security guards stationed at precincts to civilian workers.
A main point of contention is the criteria to earn the pay, approved by the metro action commission, that requires in part that employees must have direct and frequent exposure to the public.
For that reason, staff inside buildings that aren’t frontline employees were often denied the bonuses that came from Cares Act funding.
However, the unions argue that staff inside precincts and fire headquarters often did have to work with the public and were exposed to their peers who were coming in after being exposed to citizens.
“They were expected to come to work. They were expected to report to their duty stations. They were exposed to possibly COVID-19 positive spaces and people,” Smallwood said.
Shannon Hall, director of Metro Human Resources, wrote in an email that the grievances would first be heard by an administrative law judge and then the civil service commission.
The grievances come at the same time the city grapples with another hazard pay crisis.
News4 Investigates reported this work that 110 metro parks employees have to pay back $267,000 in hazard pay after a mistake was made by a metro employee in reporting their hours.
It is unclear who made the error, as both the Metro Parks Department and Metro Finance have blamed each other.
News4 Investigates asked Mayor John Cooper at his coronavirus news conference if it was fair to those employees to pay back the hazard pay if the mistake wasn’t their fault.
“This is to no fault to our metro parks employees. We appreciate the additional risks that they took to keep our parks system going, and the city’s never needed its park system more,” Cooper said. “We’re going be responsible stewards of the federal money that has been given to us. We’re going do this correction as compassionately as possible.”
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