HR (Job Training Paid Time)

When Are Employers Obligated to Pay for Training Time?

One potentially confusing area for employers is determining under which circumstances employee training time must be paid. Is all employee training time considered hours worked? BLR Legal Editor Susan Prince provides the answer in this new video.

“Do we have to pay an employee for an evening training course that we asked her to take?”

The time that employees spend in meetings, lectures, or training is considered hours worked and must be paid, unless:

  • Attendance is outside regular working hours;

  • Attendance is voluntary;

  • The course, lecture, or meeting is not job related; and

  • The employee does not perform any productive work during attendance.

Training is directly related to the employee’s job if it is designed to make the employee handle his job more effectively as distinguished from training him for another job, or to a new or additional skill. For example, a stenographer who is given a course in stenography is engaged in an activity to make her a better stenographer. Time spent in such a course given by the employer or under his auspices is hours worked.

However, if the stenographer takes a course in bookkeeping, it may not be directly related to her job. Thus, the time she spends voluntarily in taking such a bookkeeping course, outside of regular working hours, need not be counted as working time.

Where 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 his present job, the training is not considered directly related to the employee’s job even though the course incidentally improves his skill in doing his regular work.

Who Pays for Training Courses and Materials?

The FLSA addresses only payment for the time spent in training; it does not address who has to pay for cost of the training program. (For more on the FLSA, see Wage & Hour FAQ.) If your employer pays for a trainer to come conduct sessions at the workplace, this won’t be an issue. But what if your employer requires you to attend on off-site training program? Who pays the admission fee and cost of the required materials?

The answer depends on state law and any applicable employment contracts. Some states, including California, require employers to pay for all work-related expenses. In these states, employers must pay any costs associated with mandatory training programs.

In other states, employers must pay for training-related costs only if required by their policies or a contract. If you are a union member, the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) may address the issue. If you have an employment contract, see whether it addresses mandatory training.

Your employee handbook may also discuss training. If, for example, the handbook or other written policies state that the employer will pay for required training programs, you are entitled to rely on that promise.

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