Why MaineHealth is opting out of hazard pay to employees

MaineHealth Portland will not give hazard pay to thousands of its workers amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to The Maine Beacon.

The health system opted not to give hazard pay to about 1,600 to 1,700 employees who are eligible under a new city ordinance that requires employers to pay a $15 minimum wage with time-and-a-half pay during emergencies.

According to MaineHealth, the COVID-19 pandemic has already taken a "severe financial toll" on the organization and the provision to provide emergency pay "would greatly strain the resources of our not-for-profit healthcare organization."

"It is understood that we are here to provide all in our community excellent patient-centered care at all times. Being forced to provide 'emergency pay' to select employees in select locations would greatly undermine this shared mission and value," MaineHealth said in a statement to the Beacon. 

MaineHealth added that it is following a directive by a legal counsel who advised that hazard pay provisions in the voter-mandated minimum wage law won't need to be followed by employers until next year. 

People First Portland, a volunteer organization that helped get the pay increase on the November ballot, disagreed, saying the language of the proposed minimum wage ordinance stated that hazard pay would go into effect 30 days after the election. The group said 42 Portland employers, including the University of Southern Maine, already have begun to distribute hazard pay. 

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