According to the CJEU, reimbursement by the employer of the acquisition cost of the lenses would guarantee a higher level of protection for the safety and health of workers.
The Second Chamber of the Court of Justice of the European Union has declared that the company must assume the cost of prescription glasses or contact lenses for those employees who work in front of a computer screen and who need them to correct their visual acuity. The sentence, of December 22, 2022, responds to a preliminary ruling question raised by a Romanian court.
The affected user worked for the General Inspectorate of Immigration of the Department of Cluj (Romania) and carried out his functions with equipment that included display screens.
According to the employee, working in front of a computer screen caused a significant deterioration in his eyesight. In fact, following the recommendation of his specialist doctor, the man decided to change prescription glasses to correct the decrease in his visual acuity.
As the Romanian national health system did not contemplate the reimbursement of the 530 euros that the aforementioned prescription glasses cost him, the worker asked the company to reimburse him for said amount. However, the Inspectorate denied such a request.
Already in court, the Cluj District Court dismissed the lawsuit raised by the worker and warned that the conditions to obtain the requested reimbursement were not met, since the internal regulations did not establish the right to reimbursement of the costs of special corrective devices, but only a right to obtain such devices in case their use is necessary.
Dissatisfied with the foregoing, the employee appealed in cassation before the High Court of Cluj.
Then, this court decided to suspend the procedure and ask the CJEU four questions for a preliminary ruling. Specifically, among them, the Court asked if Directive 90/270 referring to the minimum health and safety provisions related to work with equipment that includes display screens, should be interpreted in the sense that the employer’s obligation to provide A special corrective device could be fulfilled for affected workers, either by directly delivering the device to the worker, or by reimbursing the expenses that the latter had to make, or by paying the worker a general salary supplement.
The company must bear the cost of prescription glasses
First of all, the European High Court emphasizes that art. 9.3 of Directive 90/270 imposes on the employer the obligation to guarantee that the affected workers obtain, where appropriate, a special corrective device, but does not specify the mode in which the company is obliged to comply with said commitment.
“The reimbursement by the employer of the purchase cost of a special corrective device is in accordance with the objective of the Directive”
After that, following the line set by the general lawyer, the CJEU opens the possibility for companies to assume the cost of acquiring prescription glasses. In the words of the Second Chamber, “the reimbursement by the employer of the cost of acquiring a special corrective device is in accordance with the objective of Directive 90/270since it guarantees a higher level of health and safety protection from the workers”.
Lastly, the ruling states that the purpose of sections 3 and 4 of art. 9 of the repeated Directive to provide workers, “without any financial burden“, special corrective devices in the event that they are necessary, can be achieved, “well directlyby means of the delivery of said device to the worker affected by the employer, or indirectlyThrough the reimbursement of the cost of said device by said employer”. Of course, as a nuance, the CJUE makes impossible that this obligation is carried out by paying the worker a general salary supplement. JSLl