Client Resources

Do You Have to Pay Employees for Online Training Completed After Hours?

Employers know they must pay their staff members for all hours worked.

However, many employers are unclear on whether employees should be compensated for various training programs, lectures and other activities. In particular, should employees be paid for online training done after hours?

Generally speaking, a staff member’s time spent gaining job skills and knowledge ought to be considered paid time. Employees do not have to be paid for attending these sessions if:

  • They are held outside normal working hours;
  • Attendance is not mandatory;
  • Material being presented is not job related; and
  • Productive work is not being done at the event

What are “normal working hours” exactly?

To some employers, the term “regular working hours” might mean the hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., etc. Consequently, these organizations automatically pay all staff members for any training that takes place during these hours, even employees who do not work this shift. This interpretation of “regular working hours” may actually result in employees being overpaid.

The term “regular working hours” refers to the specific shift worked by an employee. Therefore, if an employee routinely works from 2:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., the employer might not be mandated to pay them for going to a training session from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m., presuming all three other factors were satisfied.

What is considered voluntary?

According to the Department of Labor, a training session is voluntary if the employer does not require it as a condition of employment, and the employee isn’t led to think they will be adversely affected if they don’t attend the session.

If a company takes action against the worker for failure to attend the training, attendance clearly is not voluntary, and the worker must be compensated. Therefore, companies should explicitly communicate to their staff members that any unpaid training is not essential and make sure supervisors do not suggest non-attendance will trigger a negative employment action.

What is considered job-related training?

Training is job related if it is intended to make an employee more proficient at their position or to teach something new that must be known to carry out job duties.

On the other hand, training is not directly associated with a worker’s job when its principal focus is to prepare a worker for advancement or train for a different position, even if it means in inadvertent improvement to a worker’s capacity to carry out their regular duties.

Questions often arise as to if non-mandatory training offered by the company for a license, permit or certification is directly associated with a worker’s job. While the training would arguably make the worker more efficient, the license has a general usefulness and matches courses offered by other organizations as per the requirements of the state licensing division. Furthermore, while a license might be required for a particular job, the employer’s training program is non-mandatory because it is just one way to get the necessary paperwork.

What kind of productive work could be done at training?

According to the DOL, “productive work” is any work that is valuable to company use for business purposes. For instance, if an online course generates usable content for a company, the employee must be compensated.

Work With a Leading Supply Chain Recruiter

At ZDA, we coordinate with our clients to ensure all our contracted employees receive the proper training in accordance with all federal, state and local laws. Please contact a top supply chain recruiter today if your organization is currently looking for a custom supply chain talent acquisition solution.


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