Q. Occasionally, we offer in-house training and development programs for our employees. The training is strictly voluntary and isn’t conducted during normal working hours. Our company has never paid employees for the time spent attending such training. Is that legal?
A. Whether training programs constitute “working time” has always been a troublesome issue for employers. For the most part, attendance at lectures, meetings, training programs and similar activities is compensable working time, unless all four of the following criteria are met:
- Attendance is outside of the employee’s regular working hours.
- Attendance is voluntary.
- The course, lecture or meeting is not directly related to the employee’s job.
- The employee does not perform any productive work during this time.
Therefore, even if a nonexempt employee attends the training on a purely voluntary basis (he or she is not expected to attend) and the training is offered after working hours, time spent attending training that is designed to make the employee more effective in his or her job must be compensated.
On the other hand, if the training is offered to teach the employee new skills not directly related to his or her job (such as to prepare the employee for advancement to a more skilled position), then the time is not deemed compensable. That means you may have to pay somein the training session, while others need not be compensated.