DOL Opinion on Pay for Study Time

By James Denis

May. 4, 2009

On January 15, the U.S. Department of Labor issued an opinion letter addressing whether time spent outside normal working hours by city employees studying for city-required training programs, seminars and classes is compensable time under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The FLSA requires an employer to compensate an employee for all hours worked.

The city that sought the opinion letter requires certain of its employees to attend and pass various training programs intended to help the employees become more proficient at their jobs. The employees attend the training during working hours and the instructor informs the employees that they must read or study selected material for the next day.

When determining the compensability of training time applicable to all FLSA-covered employees, the DOL’s regulations provide that certain training activities need not be treated as hours worked if the following four criteria are met: (a) attendance is outside the employee’s regular working hours; (b) attendance is in fact voluntary; (c) the course, lecture or meeting is not directly related to the employee’s job; and (d) the employee does not perform any productive work during such attendance.

When completion of homework is a requirement of a compensable training class, time spent completing assignments for such training is compensable. The Labor Department previously found that time spent reading or studying at home would not be compensable if time is allotted during working hours but employees voluntarily chose to do their own or extra work at home, or if the excess studying was not required by the employer.

Although the Labor Department found that all time spent studying outside of work for these training courses was compensable, it also found that the city may limit the time the employees spend studying. FLSA2009-15 (1/15/09).

Impact: When homework—including reading and preparing for classes, programs or seminars—is required, time spent by an employee completing assignments is compensable.

Workforce Management, April 6, 2009, p. 10Subscribe Now!

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