Common Questions: Coronavirus Testing and Paid Time

In many cases, employee time spent getting tested for COVID-19 is considered hours worked and must be paid by the employer. Use this guidance, which is specific to Washington’s wage and hour laws, to find out when. Then find out if there are any additional requirements under federal law at the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission and the U.S. Department of Labor websites.

If an employer requires employees to get regular testing for COVID-19, regardless of their vaccination status, is the time associated with getting the test considered hours worked which must be paid under the Minimum Wage Act?

Yes. If the employer requires the test as a term of employment, regardless of vaccination status, the time spent traveling to and from the testing site and the time spent receiving the test are hours worked, which must be paid by the employer.

If an employer requires an employee to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, but allows a regular testing option in lieu of vaccination, is the testing time considered hours worked that must be paid under the Minimum Wage Act?

It depends. The more control an employer exercises over the testing, the more likely it is that the time associated with receiving the test is considered hours worked which must be paid:

  • If the employer exercises control over the testing process, such as choosing when and where the testing must take place, the time associated with receiving the test would likely be considered hours worked which needs to be paid.
  • If employers, however, provide employees a choice between vaccination or testing, and the worker chooses testing, then the time spent getting tested is not considered hours worked and does not need to be paid.
  • If the testing is done outside of the employer’s control and during the worker’s regularly scheduled workday, paid sick leave may be used to cover the time associated with testing.

If an employer requires an employee who has tested positive for, been exposed to, or is exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 to provide proof of a negative test in order to return to work, is the time associated with receiving the test considered hours worked which must be paid?

It depends. The more control an employer exercises over the COVID-19 testing, the more likely it is the time associated with receiving the test would be considered hours worked which must be paid:

  • If an employer chooses when and where the testing must take place, the time associated with receiving the test would likely be considered hours worked.
  • If the employer has no control over the testing process, and only requires proof of a negative test to return to work, then the time needed for testing would likely not be considered hours worked and would not need to be paid.
  • If the testing is done outside of the employer’s control but during the worker’s regularly scheduled workday, paid sick leave may be used to cover the time associated with testing.

If an employer requires employees to get tested for COVID-19, is the employer responsible for paying for the cost of COVID-19 tests?

While the Minimum Wage Act does not require employers to pay for the direct cost of COVID-19 tests, other laws may obligate them to do so. Employers may choose to pay for their workers' tests.

If an employer is involved in the payment of COVID-19 tests, can the employer deduct the cost of the test from an employee's paycheck?

In limited circumstances. If an employer is involved in paying for COVID-19 tests and is not otherwise required by law to pay for the cost of the test, the cost may be deducted from the employee's paycheck in accordance with WAC 296-126-028-2. This rule requires the deduction to be to the employee's benefit, and the employee must expressly authorize the deduction in advance and in writing. In these circumstances, the deduction can take the worker's pay below minimum wage.