Almost immediately after the FDA issued full approval of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine earlier this week, employers began rolling out mandatory vaccination policies. These policies are raising a variety of legal and practical questions for employers, including whether employers are required to compensate employees for time spent getting the vaccine.
Although the answer to this question remains unclear in some states, it is crystal clear in others. In California, for example, the Labor Commissioner issued guidance specifically requiring employers to pay employees for time spent getting a mandated test or vaccine. This guidance explained in part that, “If the employer requires an employee to obtain a COVID-19 test or vaccination . . . then the employer must pay for the time it takes for the testing or vaccination, including travel time.” https://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/COVID19resources/FAQs-Testing-Vaccine.html
A related question is whether employers have to have to pay for the actual vaccine if they require their employees to get it. California law clearly requires employers to pay this cost, but the law in many other states remains unsettled.
State legislatures and administrative agencies will almost certainly face pressure to provide clear guidance on these and other COVID-19 vaccine issues. Until that happens, employers are wise to proceed with caution.