135 Metro employees asked to return hazard bonus pay

Posted at 4:16 PM, Jan 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-26 12:50:18-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — More than 100 Metro employees received hazard pay in 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but they have now been told they have to pay it back.

A total of 135 employees from the Metro Nashville Parks and Recreation department were told they would receive a Hazard Pay Bonus, according to the Service Employees International Union, (SEIU) which represents the employees. But, the SEIU says the employees weren't told how much that bonus would be.

However, the employees were recently told they received the bonus pay due to an error, and that they would have to repay the additional money they received. It's unclear how much money the employees would need to repay or was sent out in error.

Some Metro employees were deemed eligible for hazard pay due to the pandemic based on very specific criteria from March 16 to November 30. The parks department determined that some of their employees met some of the criteria and as a result, different percentages of hours worked by various employees were approved for hazard pay, according to the Metro Finance Department.

But Finance Deputy Directory Mary Jo Wiggins told NewsChannel 5 the parks department mistakenly submitted the total hours worked by these employees rather than only the percentage of hours eligible for hazard pay. The error was discovered when the parks department went to submit another group of employees’ hours for hazard pay and realized they had not applied the eligible percentage on the previous submission.

The gross amount overpaid was approximately $267k to 110 employees.

Wiggins released the following statement on the error:

"We all deeply regret the error was made and realize that recouping the overpayments may cause a challenge for some of the affected employees. Finance is currently working on determining the exact amount owed back by each employee and will offer the opportunity to repay the amounts over an extended period of time so as to lessen the impact it may cause. If an employee prefers to return the funds in one lump sum, that will also be an option."

Brad Rayson, president of SEIU Local 205, said the employees did nothing wrong and should not be harmed for Metro's mistake.

"These employees have done nothing wrong. They had no reason to believe the payment they received right before the holidays was an error. So they likely did what most of us would do, spend the money on gifts for family and friends, pay bills, catch up on some debt, or do something they ordinarily wouldn’t do," Rayson said. "The city acknowledged this wasn’t the employee's fault, but they are still attempting to reclaim the money from their wages. The impact for these employees could be devastating. We’re working with our members, Metro Council, and Mayor Cooper’s administration to find a solution that doesn’t harm employees."

Andrea Fanta from Mayor Cooper's office said, "Mayor John Cooper supports a transparent process that lessens the impact to these employees as much as possible."