Workers required to attend ‘voluntary’ training? Be prepared to pay nonexempt employees — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily

Workers required to attend ‘voluntary’ training? Be prepared to pay nonexempt employees

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in Compensation and Benefits,Human Resources

Do you require or strongly rec­ommend that employees attend training sessions outside their regularly scheduled shifts? If training participants are hourly employees, chances are you will have to pay them for their time.

Simply calling the training voluntary isn’t good enough if the employees believe they would suffer adverse consequences for skipping the sessions.

Recent case: Rosa Nehmelman was a casino dealer working for an hourly wage. She sued, alleging that she had not been paid for the time she spent in what she called mandatory training sessions.

She brought the case on behalf of other dealers, contending they were similarly situated and affected by the same company policy that required dealers to learn new games of chance outside normal work hours and with­­out receiving their hourly pay or over­­time.

The casino argued that under the Fair Labor Standards Act, only hourly employees who are required to take training sessions have to be paid for that training. It also argued that even mandatory training that taught new skills was exempt from the rule.

In this case, it said the training ­sessions were recommended, but not required. Plus, it argued, learning new games was acquiring a new skill, not improving on an old one.

The employees argued that the company required the training and criticized anyone who dropped a course.

In addition, they said that if they didn’t take the courses, they would be criticized for lack of enthusiasm at performance review time.

The court said the case could go forward as a class action. The em­­ployees will get a chance to prove that training was mandatory and related to their jobs. (Nehmelman, et al., v. Penn National Gaming, No. 11-C-23, ND IL, 2011)

Final note: On-site college classes are an example of training that typically does not have to be paid because it prepares employees for different jobs. That’s true even if the classes benefit the employer.

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