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My Boss Told Me Not To Get a COVID-19 Test. What Should I Do?

By Andrew Leonatti | Last updated on

It's hard not to notice that a lot of businesses are struggling these days. The highly infectious omicron variant of the coronavirus is sending a lot of workers home, leading to reduced hours, gaps in store shelves, canceled flights, and understaffed hospitals.

We've written previously about numerous issues facing businesses, workers, and their customers. But with cases at an all-time high, we are charting new ground (again). With businesses facing a staff-up-or-close crisis, some bosses might think it necessary to take a "don't-ask, don't-tell" posture when it comes to employee health and staying open.

When Employer and Government Guidance Collide

Stories are starting to pop up of workers, worried of possible COVID-19 exposure, facing down bosses who were discouraging the workers from getting tested. No test means no positive test, which means no reason to be out sick, and the business can stay open.

One barista described her boss specifically asking her not to get tested for COVID-19 when she felt symptoms because the business would have to close for two weeks if she tested positive. A food service worker said his boss instructed him to get a rapid antigen test so he could still come into work the same night if he felt no symptoms.

This introduces a host of safety questions for everyone involved, including bosses, workers, and customers. If you don't receive paid sick time as part of your job, you will likely feel pressure to report to work even if you worry about exposing your coworkers and customers.

Official guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), however, recommends that you get tested if you were exposed to someone with COVID-19. If you are up-to-date on your vaccinations but still develop symptoms, you should stay home until you get your test results.

What Should You Do?

So, let's say your boss really doesn't want you to get a COVID-19 test. Can they prevent you from getting one? In a word: no, they can't stop you from getting a test. Punishing you for getting a test, however, could be a different story. In at-will employment states, you can be fired for nearly any reason, provided your employer is not engaging in illegal discrimination.

The big caveat, however, is whether your employer is complying with state or local COVID-19-related ordinances dictating when workers should test, quarantine, and isolate. In Los Angeles County, California, for example, workplaces must report outbreaks of COVID-19 and provide free testing to certain exposed employees.

An employer who doesn't want employees to get tested could be operating within the law in some places and outside it in others. In your specific situation, it's best to know what your rights are by checking state and local laws and regulations. You can also call and ask an employment lawyer.

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