Corporate Payroll Services

You send an employee in your marketing department to a training class on email marketing.  The class is meant to improve her skills so you can more consistently communicate with your growing client base.  The class is offered during your normal business hours.  Do you need to pay her for the time spent in class?

You operate a residential care facility and are offering an Alzheimer’s training session after hours for your team of caregivers.  The dishwasher who works the day shift at your facility attends the training session after his shift is over.  Does the care facility administrator have to pay him for the time spent at the training session?

Employers are often unsure if they have to pay employees for time spent in outside training courses.  According to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the time that employees spend in training courses is considered hours worked unless all four of the following criteria are met:

  • Attendance in the training course is completely voluntary;
  • Attendance is outside regular working hours;
  • The course is not directly job-related; and
  • The employee does not perform any productive work during the course.

To determine whether the training is directly job-related, you must ascertain whether the purpose of the course is to make the employee more efficient and effective in their current position.  If the training is intended to develop the employee for an advancement opportunity or is for college credit, it most likely can be excluded from the “directly job-related” category.

In the first example above, since the employee is enhancing her marketing skills, the hours spent in the course would be considered hours worked.  However, if she went to a computer programming course so she can join your IT support team, that would likely be outside the scope of directly job-related duties.

In the case of the dishwasher, all four of the criteria above are met.  There is no need to compensate him; it is not considered hours worked.

Note that it is permissible to pay employees at a lower rate for training time (as long as that training rate meets or exceeds minimum wage).  If you do so, you must notify the employee in writing of the pay rate the company will use for training hours. The required notice period varies from state to state.

If you have questions about whether training time should be considered time worked, you can reach out to the experts at our HR Help Center who contributed to this article.

HR Support Center