Published: December 14, 2021

Homecare workers represented by SEIU 503 filed a contract grievance yesterday over The Oregon Department of Human Services’ mishandling of hazard payments.  

Here’s what you need to know.  

  1. Homecare workers fought for and won hazard pay in their latest contract with DHS to recognize workers who provided care during the first two waves of the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  2. In issuing hazard pay, DHS’s APD program misled homecare workers and PCAs about how the payments would be taxed. Workers and SEIU 503 were told that hazard pay would be treated as regular income. But when the checks were issued, ADP treated it as supplemental income which resulted in more taxes being withheld than expected. See this post for additional information on payments
  3. The grievance filed by homecare workers on Monday asks DHS to immediately pay workers the money that was withheld from their hazard pay checks, in addition to asking the state to pay for tax preparation assistance so workers can file their taxes accurately. 
  4. Personal Support Workers in the ODDS program did not experience the same issue. This added to the confusion as many APD workers saw their fellow union members get the expected amount of hazard pay while they did not. 
  5. There is no action required at this time. We will share updates as they become available. (Due to high call volume at our Member Assistance Center during healthcare open enrollment, we request workers hold off on calling with questions related to the hazard pay grievance.) 

Homecare workers filed this grievance because we must send a clear message to DHS that errors with pay are not acceptable. Winning a contract grievance, particularly one like this which is about how the contract language is interpreted, is very challenging. And we can’t say whether or not we will get the remedies we’re asking for. We also cannot allow DHS to continue making errors like this without consequences. Long-term, we expect systems-level changes to improve pay accuracy and communication.  

In our union communications, we highlighted the $2,000 pre-tax hazard pay number and did not do enough to communicate to APD workers that taxes would be withheld from their checks. We apologize for this error and are doing everything in our power to correct it. 

We are thankful for every member of our union who fought for and won this bonus. Hazard pay is an $80 million investment in our workforce, and a recognition of how essential we all are to Oregon’s seniors and people with disabilities. It wouldn’t have been possible without the actions workers took to fight for this incredible contract. Thank you!