Employees of several federal and government entities were added to a lawsuit against the federal government demanding hazard pay, according to an amended federal civil lawsuit filed Wednesday.
The American Federation of Government Employees — a union which has represented more than 700,000 federal and government workers, and currently includes more than 300,000 active members — filed a lawsuit on these employees’ behalf in March.
Filed in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, the union claims the government has not adjusted the payscale of its workers to include hazard pay.
On Wednesday the original lawsuit was amended to include new plaintiffs.
The new plaintiffs include several components of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents and officers who are on the forefront of the borders, working in legal ports of entry, and detention facilities.
The lawsuit also added employees of the Department of Labor, the Social Security Administration, the Federal Grain Inspection Service, and multiple U.S. Department of Defense components including the Air Force, Army, and the Defense Commissary Agency, the court record shows.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, currently facing a furlough of more than 13,000 of its employees, was included in the lawsuit.
The employees in question claim in the suit that since Jan. 27, they’ve been forced to continue to work in hazardous environments without the additional 25% hazard pay entitled to them as federal employees.
In its filing, the AGFE claims thousands of government and federal workers have been exposed to COVID-19 through their daily tasks.
“Each day front-line federal employees willingly risk their health and their families’ health to provide critical services to the American people,” AFGE stressed in the release. “Since our original complaint was filed in March, tens of thousands of federal employees have contracted COVID-19 and many more are suffering because they are being forced to go to work in unsafe environments.
“It is our hope that the government does right by these employees and pays them the hazardous duty pay they’ve earned.”
According to ICE’s own data which was last updated June 22, there have been 45 confirmed cases of COVID-19 “among ICE employees working in ICE detention facilities.”
An additional 153 ICE employees not assigned to detention facilities have tested positive for COVID-19, the agency’s website stated.
Not only are federal employees contracting the virus, but detainees inside the facilities with nowhere to go are also vulnerable for infection.
As of July 23, ICE reported 3,781 total confirmed cases, 966 positive cases of COVID-19 currently in custody, and that three detainees had died.
Earlier this week, CBP confirmed the death of a U.S. Border Patrol agent stationed in the Rio Grande Valley.
The agent, Enrique J. Rositas, of Edinburg, had been with Border Patrol for more than 20 years, working at the McAllen Border Patrol station.
Rositas, 53, died July 11 as a result of contracting COVID-19, according to RGV Chief Patrol Agent Brian Hastings, who took to Twitter to make the announcement.
The U.S. government has until Aug. 5 to respond to the amended motion in the lawsuit, according to the docket notes.