The California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) recently updated its Guide to COVID-19 Related Frequently Asked Questions to include wage and hour issues related to employer-mandated COVID-19 tests or vaccinations. According to this latest guidance, if an employer requires employees to obtain a COVID-19 test or vaccination, the employer must pay “for the time it takes for testing or vaccination because such time would constitute ‘hours worked.’” The DIR noted that this time would constitute “hours worked” because “the employer exercised control over the worker by requiring the worker to perform [the] task” of being tested or vaccinated. This guidance also explains that any time the employee spends waiting to take a COVID-19 test and/or receive the vaccine is compensable as hours worked, though there is no requirement to pay employees for time spent waiting for test results.
The FAQs also indicate that if an employer requires employees to obtain a COVID-19 test and/or vaccination, the employer must pay for the cost of the test and vaccination in accordance with California Labor Code Section 2802, which provides that employers must reimburse an employee for necessary business expenses. The employer also may be required to reimburse the employee for travel expenses to and from the testing or vaccination location “[i]f the testing or vaccination is performed at a location other than the employee’s ordinary worksite.” The DIR recommends that employees “ask which location(s) or vendor(s) are acceptable to the employer to avoid disputes over cost.”