Most supervisors are called upon at some point to train employees, in order to sharpen their skills or perhaps give them a “big picture” perspective on what your organization is doing.

Obviously, you want these sessions to be 100% constructive. But they won’t be if the training creates wage/hour issues. And that can happen if you’re not careful.

The relevant law is the Fair Labor Standards Act, and here’s what it says: You don’t have to pay hourly workers for time spent on training if the sessions or lectures are outside working hours, result in no actual work and are not directly related to the workers’ jobs.

For the hours to be legitimately unpaid, attendance also has to be voluntary. Attendance isn’t voluntary if workers are led to believe their working conditions or continued employment would be jeopardized by non-attendance.

Let’s look at a couple of scenarios:

  • You want to hold a series of voluntary “brown bag” lunch meetings for your hourly workers to inform them about industry trends. Normally they clock out for lunch hour. Will you have to pay them?
    Yes, you probably will. But if you move the meetings to 5 p.m. – making sure everybody understands they don’t have to stay – you won’t have to pay.
  • You’re training your customer service crew on a new software package that promises to gather more and better customer information. Your people start work at 9 a.m., so you schedule the training for 8-9 a.m. on three successive days in order not to interfere with work time. Do you have to pay people for the three hours they spent training?

    Yes. To be sure, the training sessions are outside normal working hours and they don’t result in actual work the organization can use. But the training IS directly related to the workers’ jobs, so it has to be paid under the FLSA.

Of course, if a supervisor isn’t sure whether the arrangements he or she has made for training might result in extra paid hours, the supervisor should consult HR before going ahead. But the guidelines above will help avert unexpected overtime claims.

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