Throughout the pandemic, employers have been unsure whether employees need to be compensated for time spent receiving the COVID-19 vaccine or getting tested.
Fortunately, new DOL guidance under the FLSA was released to clear up this confusion.
Employers already know the FLSA requires them to pay employees for all hours worked. This means that even if the work occurs off-site or after hours, employers need to compensate their workers.
What constitutes work isn’t always obvious, either. For example, travel to and from work sites or essential after-hours training can all be compensable.
Going along with that, employees also need to be paid for time spent doing things that help them safely and effectively do their jobs — and receiving the COVID-19 vaccine or getting tested for the virus falls into that category.
However, only under certain circumstances do employers need to compensate employees for getting tested or vaccinated.
Here are the specific FLSA guidelines regarding COVID-19.
When to compensate
Testing or vaccination that occurs during regular work hours must be paid. Additionally, if the employer is requiring vaccination, even if the employee gets the shot after hours, that time must be paid as well.
If an employer has a vaccine mandate, but an employee is exempt due to medical or religious reasons and is getting tested regularly, that time must be paid too, even if it happens after hours.
When not to compensate
However, if an employee chose not to get vaccinated without a medical or religious exemption, an employer does not have to pay for time spent getting tested.
In a similar vein, if vaccination or testing isn’t required by the employer, the employer doesn’t have to compensate employees for time spent doing either — regardless of whether it happens on or off the clock.
However, the DOL guidance reminds employers to check state and local requirements on the issue, as those guidelines may differ from the federal ones.