Many companies in the Atlanta area now require that their employees take online training classes, or classes at outside facilities. Should the time spent taking this training be compensated? The FLSA covers this issue in general, and a recent DOL opinion letter shines an interesting light on some facts that may come up while employees are taking classes on their computers.
Generally, the FLSA says about online training that it is not compensable if the following four criteria are met:
- Attendance is outside of the employee’s regular working hours;
- Attendance is actually voluntary. It is not considered to be voluntary if the employee thinks that the job depends on completing the training.
- The course, lecture, or meeting is not directly related to the employee’s job. The training is considered to be directly related to an employee’s job if it is designed to make the employee handle his job more effectively, rather than training for another job or for a new skill. It is also not considered to be job- related if it corresponds to courses offered by outside training schools; and
- The employee does not perform any productive work while engaged in this training.
Failing to meet all of these criteria may result in the employee getting paid his or her wages for taking the class.
The opinion letter regards a case where employees were taking a two- step, voluntary training class with an equipment provider. The first step was a ten- hour online class, which the employee was supposed to do on his own, followed by the regular paid training class.
The question was: was the ten- hour prep class subject to wage payment?
The opinion letter said that the time was, indeed, compensable. The prep class met criteria 1, 2, and 4, but not 3. The letter said that the prep class was not designed to create a new skill, but to train for the current job. In addition, the prep class didn’t meet the exception for outside training class, because the class was provided by the equipment provider, and not by an outside school.