Is Training Time Work Time?


Employers are often confused about training time and whether or not it must be paid. Training can take many forms including new employee orientation, a weekly staff meeting, a yearly Las Vegas conference, a training webinar, a college course, etc.

As a general rule training time must be paid. However, if it meets all of the following four criteria, then the time would not be considered work time under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and does not need to be paid.

1. Attendance at training is outside of employee’s regular work hours


2. Attendance is voluntary


3. The training is not directly related to the employee’s job


4. The employee does not perform any productive work during the training

The trickiest of the four factors is usually #2 (attendance is voluntary). Imagine the following scenario:

A company sends out a memo that lists the employees who are scheduled to attend the monthly company training on November 26th with a note that says “if you can’t attend on the 26th, you may attend a substitute training on the 29th” and lists the subject matter that will be discussed including: company policy on safety equipment, how to work new GPS systems, paperwork requirements for new BlueBird project, etc.  In small letters at the bottom of the memo it says “Attendance is voluntary”.

Do you think attendance at that meeting is truly voluntary? No, probably not.

An example of a training that would not be considered work time is the following:

A company offers “Marketing 101” to its 600 lower level employees from 6pm to 8pm every other Wednesday. The curriculum for the classes corresponds closely to a Marketing class offered at the local community college. Any of the lower level employees may attend.  They learn general marketing skills (not just applicable to this company). They don’t do any productive work (i.e. strategic plans for the company, marketing calls, etc.) Employees who don’t attend are not punished (i.e. not eligible for a certain bonus).  The employees who go to the Marketing 101 classes could include it as general training/knowledge on a resume.

The four criteria determine whether or not training time must be paid under federal law found in the FLSA.  If you think you have training that you don’t have to pay for make sure it meets these four criteria as well as any requirements found in your state labor regulations.

If you’re wondering about travel time to trainings check back soon for another tip related to work time: “Is Travel Time Work Time?”

We hope you found this week’s tip helpful and informative. Please pass it along to anyone you think might be at risk as a result not paying for training time. Follow us on facebook to get a weekly tip update on your news feed!


–       By Kalen Fraser

The Labor Brain Inc. is not a law firm and its employees do not practice law or provide legal services.  The information provided on our website,  in email correspondence with representatives of The Labor Brain, and at outreach events is for informational and educational purposes only.  The information provided is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney.