Do we have to pay a nonexempt (hourly) employee to complete training courses outside of his normal working hours when it is a requirement for the job?

The following information is excerpted from the U.S. Electronic Code of Federal Regulations:

Employees who spend time at lectures, work courses, employer-sponsored training programs or employee meetings must count that time as hours worked for pay purposes unless all of the following criteria are met:

  • Time is outside of normal working hours.
  • Coursework is unrelated to the employee’s regular job, such as learning the requirement of a new or higher-rated job.
  • Attendance is strictly voluntary (except for continuing education training).
  • No production work is performed.

Here are additional pointers on the legal obligations involved: 

  • An employer must compensate for mandatory training time unless it’s directly related to professional licensing; 
  • If an employee is required to attend training on a day not normally scheduled they must receive at least a half day’s pay; 
  • Time spent on voluntary training is not compensable if it’s outside normal working hours and not directly related to the employee’s job. For example, training a programmer on using a current application is compensable; paying for an MBA program so the employee can become a future manager is not; 
  • Training that directly benefits an employer is always compensable. For example, new-hire training on welding procedures on an object eventually purchased by a client is compensable; voluntary welding training that results in no end product is not. 
  • Training expenses can be reimbursed on a pro-rata basis if an employee agrees to do so beforehand and leaves the company a short time afterwards. So, if the employee goes through a year-long training program that costs the company $10,000 and they take another job a month later, it’s appropriate to demand reimbursement for most, if not all, of this expense; 
  • An employer that operates a for-fee training program cannot use completion of the program as a condition of hire.

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