Compensability Of Training Time Under The Fair Labor Standards Act

A common overtime pay issue is whether time spent training counts as “working time” that must be compensated at at least 1.5 times the employee’s regular pay rate.  Like many “working time” questions under federal overtime law, the answer is “maybe” and depends upon the facts and circumstances of each situation.  This is a well-settled area of federal overtime law.

Training time is generally compensable.   Attendance at lectures, meetings, training programs, and similar activities need not be counted as working time if the following four criteria are met: (a) Attendance is outside of the employee’s regular working hours; (b) attendance is in fact voluntary; (c) the course, lecture, or meeting is not directly related to the employee’s job; and (d) the employee does not perform any productive work during such attendance.

Federal law assumes that an employee’s time spent in attending lectures, meetings, or training programs must be counted as time worked unless each of those four criteria are met.  Criteria (a) and (d) are self-explanatory and don’t usually form the basis for a working time dispute.  But criteria (b) and (c) are often a subject of dispute between employers and employees.  So how does federal law interpret “voluntary attendance” and “training directly related to an employee’s job?”

Attendance at training is not voluntary if it is required by the employer.  It is not voluntary if the employee is given to understand or led to believe that the employee’s present working conditions or the continuance of employment would be adversely affected by nonattendance.  But a plaintiff seeking to show that it is “required” by his employer to attend training need not show that the employer has a rule terminating those who do not attend training.

Training is directly related to an employee’s job if it is designed to make the employee handle the job more effectively as distinguished from training the employee for another job, or for a new or additional skill.   When a training course is instituted for the bona fide purpose of preparing for advancement through upgrading the employee to a higher skill, and is not intended to make the employee more efficient in the present job, the training is not considered directly related to the employee’s job even though the course incidentally improves the employee’s skill in doing the regular work.  Training is not directly related to an employee’s job if it develops skills that are either beyond the requirements of the employee’s specific job or so basic and transferrable that the skills would be useful to the employee in any job and beyond.

Overtime cases require legal analysis of federal statutes, U.S. Department of Labor regulations, and court decisions.  I can help you with any employment law or labor law questions that you might have.  Please feel free to contact me for a free initial consultation about employment law or labor law.

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