Q. We send our hourly employees to training that is related to work but is not required for employees to do their jobs. The training is on a weekend, is voluntary, and no work is performed. Are we required to pay employees for the hours they spend attending the training?
A. The time your employees spend at training programs might be compensable depending on the circumstances of the situation. Attendance at lectures, meetings, training programs and similar activities will not be considered working time only if all 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 such attendance.
Because the training you describe is work-related it will probably fail to meet the third criterion. Thus, your employees would be entitled to compensation for the hours spent attending the training.
However, there is an exception from the requirement that the training not be directly related to the employee’s job. Specifically, according to the U.S. Department of Labor the time spent at training lectures and programs is not compensable in certain special circumstances:
- The time workers spend voluntarily attending programs of instruction similar to ones offered by “independent bona fide institutions of higher learning” occurring outside of employees’ work hours is not compensable even if the program is directly related to the employee’s job or if the employer is paying for the courses.
- The time employees spend voluntarily attending “an independent school, college or trade school” after work is not compensable—even if the employee is taking courses related to his or her work or if the employer is paying for the courses.
- The time employees spend receiving classroom instruction that is held in conjunction with apprenticeship programs is not compensable.
- Under certain circumstances, the time public-sector employees spend attending specialized or follow-up training that is required by law for certification of
- public-sector employees and that occurs outside of regular working hours is not compensable.
- Under certain circumstances, the hours police officers and firefighters spend attending a police or fire academy or other training facility are not considered to be on duty and thus are not hours worked.
Note also that if the time spent at training sessions turns out to be hours worked, the Fair Labor Standards Act’s overtime compensation rules will also come into play.must receive overtime pay for hours worked over 40 in a workweek at a rate not less than time and one-half their regular rates of pay.
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