Dear Editor: It’s illegal, under OSHA, to force employees to pay for PCR tests

“Many employers are trying to force workers who have not been vaccinated to take a PCR test… Of course, the expectation is that workers will pay for this—and at anything up to $1,400 a test, it is hardly worth going to work. 

“You’re not going to work to pay the rent, but to pay the lab!”

The following Letter to the Editor on the legality of employers insisting that employees pay for their own PCR tests before reporting to work was submitted to Wired868 by Dave Smith of the National Workers Union (NWU):

Photo: A man tests for Covid-19.
(Copyright Deccan Herald)

Many employers are trying to force workers who have not been vaccinated to take a PCR test. Some employers want every month, but others are demanding every two weeks.

Of course, the expectation is that workers will pay for this—and at anything up to $1,400 a test, it is hardly worth going to work. You’re not going to work to pay the rent, but to pay the lab!

The argument that many employers are putting up is that this is for the safety of the work environment.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, employers DO have a legal responsibility to provide a safe working environment. To quote the Act:

‘It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the safety, health and welfare at work of all his employees.’

Okay so far. But one of the problems with a selective reading of the law is that you are tempted to conveniently miss things that are not in your favour.

Photo: Employees at Trotters Restaurant.
(via Trotters)

Have a look at section 12 of the OSH Act:

‘12. (1) No employer shall levy or permit to be levied on any employee of his in respect of anything done or provided in pursuance of any specific requirement of this Act, except in respect of—

(a) foodstuffs and other items served in a canteen;

(b) things lost or damaged wilfully or through the negligence of the employee; and

(c) protective clothing and devices where the employee is employed for one month or less.

(2) Amount levied under subsection (1)(c) shall not be in excess of one-half of the value of the protective clothing or device.’

Section 37 of the Act is even more explicit. It states:

Photo: A woman takes a PCR test for Covid-19.

‘(1) Where, after the commencement of this Act, a person seeks employment, or is already employed, in an industrial establishment, he may be required by the employer to undergo a medical examination as a pre-condition of permanent employment, or to determine fitness for work, except in such shops or places of work as the Minister may, by Order, exempt.

(2) The cost of the medical examination shall be borne by the employer.’

So, if PCR tests are required by the employer to fulfill the obligations under OSH legislation, then it seems they and not the worker must pay for it.

Editor’s Note: Click HERE to read an appeal by PNM National Women’s League chair Camille Robinson-Regis to the women of Trinidad and Tobago to vaccinate their households.

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  1. Short answer: Get vaccinated!

  2. “Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive!” (Sir Walter Scott, 1808)

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