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Metro Water worker frustrated over not receiving hazard pay

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - Why them and not us?

That was the question one man who works at Metro Water Services said he wants answered.

Michael Tindzley said his job was deemed “essential” during the pandemic, but a new policy by Metro Water doesn’t pay him like he is essential.

“It’s got loopholes like bad cheese,” Tindsley said.

Tindzley is a Water Quality Leader 2 at Metro Water, listed in a memo sent out in April as an “essential worker” by the U.S. Government. Metro Water said he didn’t qualify for hazard pay, unlike his other colleagues.

“I’m not allowed to go into houses, but I do meet with the consumer,” Tindzley said.

He feels that puts his life at risk.

“I come in, without regard to my own personal well-being, to make sure that I do something, and yet I’m x’d out of any benefit that might come through Metro Water. That’s not fair,” Tindzley said.

To get some answers, News4 reached out to Metro Water Services to find out who receives hazard pay and why.

Sonia Allman, Manager of Strategic Communications for Metro Water Services, provided a statement to News4:

“Metro Water Services believes that all its employees are essential. Our core business – to manage, treat, supply, supply, and protect our water resources is essential to the life and safety of our community.

“The Hazard Pay was paid to employees who met the criteria as outlined in the Hazard Pay Proposal approved by the Civil Service Commission in April 2020 which includes requirement necessary for reimbursement under the Federal CARES Act.

“MWS Leadership made their best efforts to qualify as many people as possible for this Hazard Pay. MWS submission was inclusive and provided our best business case for as many employees as possible. The Metropolitan Government reviewed all MWS submissions and determined which positions and work types met all criteria to be eligible for Hazard Pay.”

Metro Water added that they attempted to qualify as many people as possible. Metro Water said 275 employees met that criteria and received hazard pay. Around 780 employees currently work at Metro Water Services.

Tindzley feels that the 275 who received hazard pay isn’t enough.

“I’m at much at risk as anybody else,” Tindsley said.

Metro Government released the following information about criteria:

The hazard pay bonus rate was $3.13/hour for hours worked in the eligible roles. We had some employees across Metro who were approved for certain hours as part of their role but not all. And also as you’ll see in the criteria below, hours incurred during vacation, sick, leave, etc. were not included.

There are approximately 780 employees at MWS and they submitted just over 400 names for consideration to receive hazard pay. The committee reviewed all roles and responsibilities of the individuals submitted and approximately 275 employees were approved. Approvals were made based on the following criteria:

In order to meet the requirements necessary to be approved for this hazard payment, the following criteria and guidance will be used in order to determine which employees qualify for the hazard payment bonus. The qualified employee’s primary job functions must meet all of the criteria below:

  1. Necessary to prepare for, prevent, or respond to public health emergency with respect to COVID-19. Metro will use the US Department of Homeland Security’s guidance on Essential Critical Infrastructure workers, the latest version of which is attached here.
  2. Require repeated and prolonged contact with potentially COVID 19-positive public or potentially COVID-19-contaminated spaces/property in order to perform their jobs. Metro will require documentation of this criteria and evaluate the job classification and description from an HR and operational perspective.
  3. Because of the elevated risk noted above, it is more difficult to retain staff at this critical time and this position in this state of emergency requires fully staffed shifts for these essential, front-line, direct-service roles. Metro will consider recent staffing data and require documentation of staffing retention concerns from a department head.

The Metropolitan Government will only offer this hazard payment to those that meet the criteria under plan. Note: in applying the above criteria, we take into account the following. Please incorporate into your justification, where possible:

  1. Could the exposure risk be fully or substantially mitigated by PPE, social distancing or other protective measures (e.g., plexiglass)?
  2. Is the risk sustained throughout all shifts or does it occur only some of the time, if the employee performs multiple functions. In this latter case, do we know what percent of the time the exposure risk occurs?
  3. Has there been exposure risk presented at the workplace to-date?

The Metropolitan Government has determined this hazard payment is only for the time period March 16, 2020 through Nov. 30, 2020. These payments will be accrued during this timeframe determined by the Metropolitan Government and paid as a lump sum payment to each qualified employee after the period ends as determined the Metropolitan Government. The hazard payment that will be accrued for a qualified employee over the time period above will be a flat hourly rate of $3.13 per each hour actually worked, whether it is a regular standard working hour or overtime paid hour or comp time hour earned. Notwithstanding any other definition to the contrary, for the purposes of determining this hazard bonus payment, hours actually worked are the regular working hours, and the paid overtime hours/comp time hours earned, when the employee is actually on duty, performing duties for the Metropolitan Government, and specifically excludes any other type of paid leave including, but not limited to, vacation, sick, etc.

The above criteria was the same for all Metro employees. It is possible that someone is deemed a critical infrastructure employee, but then not meet the other criteria in steps 2 or 3. An employee had to meet all three pieces of criteria.


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