The Fair Labor Standards Act governs workplace matters, such as wages, hours worked and whether employee training should be counted as hours worked for compensation. Compensable time -- time that must be paid -- may not be a significant factor for salaried exempt workers who are paid on a salary basis, regardless of the number of hours they work. However, nonexempt workers who are paid according to the number of hours they put in are likely to be affected by the FLSA rules on training considered hours worked.
Employers must include employee training in hours worked, provided the training meets four criteria. To be compensable, the training must be conducted during the employee's normal work hours; mandatory training the employee is required to complete as a condition of employment; related to the employee's job; and that which relieves the employee of normal work duties while participating in the training.
Employees must be paid for time to participate in training when it's conducted during working hours. On-the-job training, new-employee orientation and leadership training provided by the human resources staff are conducted during work hours because they are a matter of course. For example, new-employee orientation is a component of the onboarding process and, therefore, held during working hours. In addition, scheduling training during the normal work hours accommodates employees' schedules, thereby increasing attendance. In addition, because this training is particularly relevant to an employee's job duties or employment status, it's offered during the employee's normal working hours.
Employees are required to attend mandatory training; their failure to do so can result in disciplinary action or poor performance ratings for nonparticipation. Mandatory training can include supervisory and management training on fair employment practices, preventing sexual harassment or orientation for workplace policies and procedures. Even if training is strongly suggested -- for example, communication and leadership training for supervisors -- and not expressly described as mandatory, it's still compensable time.
Training conducted on-site related to work processes, organizational rules or guidelines is job-related. Also, training on specific job skills or supervisory training on topics such as conducting performance appraisals are not only job-related but also necessary for employees to perform their responsibilities. Paid training must be job-related or provide skills that the employee can use to improve his job performance.
On-site training often is conducted in a separate office location with short breaks for attendees to check voice mail, email and chat briefly about regular work issues. Therefore, it technically meets the requirement that training participants aren't performing usual work duties. Webinars and online training that aren't interactive should be viewed on a case-by-case basis because they might allow the participant to multi-task by dividing attention between training and her regular duties. For training to be included in hours worked, the employee's attention should be directed towards the training and not work duties.
Ruth Mayhew has been writing since the mid-1980s, and she has been an HR subject matter expert since 1995. Her work appears in "The Multi-Generational Workforce in the Health Care Industry," and she has been cited in numerous publications, including journals and textbooks that focus on human resources management practices. She holds a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Ruth resides in the nation's capital, Washington, D.C.