Online training programs eliminate the hassle of trying to schedule a convenient time for employees to be trained. This means employees may end up taking the training at home and after normal work hours. You must evaluate whether this time is compensable work time, and pay employees accordingly.
Under Fair Labor Standards Act () regulations, training time need not be counted as working time only if all of the following four criteria are met:
Attendance is outside of the employee's regular working hours.
Attendance is voluntary. Managers can suggest to their employees that they consider taking a training course without turning the training into compensable work time. However, the managers must not express or imply that the employees' present working conditions or continuance of employment will be adversely affected if they refuse to participate.
The course is not directly related to the employee's job. The Department of Labor (DOL) released an opinion letter (FLSA2009-13) earlier this year regarding the time technicians spent taking online prerequisite classes at home in preparation for a voluntary job-related training class. The company was going to pay for the time the technicians spent taking the training classes, and wondered about the time spent taking the prerequisite classes. The DOL considered the prerequisite classes to be compensable time because both the training classes and the prerequisite classes "offer instruction to enable the technicians to perform their present jobs better by giving them greater abilities to use a network system they are presently using."
The employee does not perform any productive work during such attendance.
If even one of the above criteria is not met, then employees must likely be paid for the training time. None of the criteria relate to the location of the training, so you cannot use that as a deciding factor in determining whether or not at-home training time should be paid.
Note: DOL opinion letters are based on the specific facts and circumstances described by the requesting party. A different conclusion may be drawn under a different set of circumstances.
Want to keep the costs of at-home online training down? In a different opinion letter (FLSA2009-15), the DOL said an employer had the right to limit the amount of time employees spend completing assignments outside the classroom and after normal work hours. You may establish a specific amount of time employees can spend completing assignments outside of the office, but any overage would also have to be paid.