Online training has become common and convenient. But suppose employees do it after work at home. Do you have to pay them overtime, under the Fair Labor Standards Act? The short answer is “yes,” but there are complications.
The ruling comes in the form of an opinion letter from the U.S. Department of Labor regarding a case in which an employer required some workers to take training via the Web. Here’s what the DOL said about it and the FLSA rules.
First, you don’t have to pay OT for any type of training if all of the following criteria are met:
- Attendance outside the employee’s normal working hours is in fact voluntary (attendance is not voluntary if the employee is led to believe that present working conditions or the continuation of employment would be adversely affected by not attending)
- The course, lecture, or meeting is not directly related to the employee’s job (training is directly related to an employee’s job if it is designed to make the employee handle a job more effectively as distinguished from training for another job or to learn a new or additional skill)
- The employee does not perform any productive work during such attendance.
If all those criteria are not met, then the employer must compensate the employees for their training time.
Now, here’s how the DOL’s opinion letter applied those criteria to online training done after hours at home: Essentially, DOL said, the rules are the same. If the training doesn’t meet all of the criteria listed above, you have to pay the employees for overtime.
Go the DOL Web site to see the text of the opinion letter.
Note: Opinion letters often indicate how an agency is inclined to rule on a similar dispute, but such letters (a) do not carry the weight of law and (b) apply only to the specific instances mentioned in the letter.