Employees often attend training sessions before or after work hours. The big HR question: Do they get paid? The answer, according to the Department of Labor, is yes, in most cases. Not always though. Employees don’t need to be paid for training, meetings, lectures, etc., if:
- The session takes place outside the employee’s normal working hours
- Attendance is voluntary
- The content of the session is not directly related to the employee’s job, and
- No work is done during the session.
To be unpaid, the training session must meet ALL of those criteria. They’re mostly self-explanatory, except for the third item. How do you know if something is “directly related” to a person’s job?
According to the FLSA, it’s directly related if its main purpose is to “make the employee more efficient in his present job.” On the other hand, the training isn’t considered related if it upgrades employees’ other skills, for example, to prepare them for advancement to jobs they don’t already have.
A 2006 DOL opinion letter addresses the example of a restaurant providing English language instruction for Spanish-speaking employees. As long as the instruction is general and mainly for the employees’ benefit — i.e. it doesn’t just teach people phrases they need to work — the training doesn’t need to be paid (assuming the first, second and third criteria are met, too).
Read the DOL’s opinion letter here.