The US Department of Labor (DOL) recently issued Administrator signed Opinion Letter FLSA2009-1. Although Opinion Letters only apply to the exact set of facts and circumstances presented in each case, they are a valuable aid in understanding current interpretations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
In this Opinion Letter, the DOL concluded that employee attendance at State mandated training programs by child care center workers does not result in hours worked under the FLSA. The DOL lists four criteria that must be met for the time not to be counted as hours worked:
Attendance is outside of the employee’s regular working hours;
Attendance is in fact voluntary;
The course, lecture, or meeting is not directly related to the employee’s job; and
The employee does not perform any productive work during such attendance.
In this case, the employer offered the training courses after-hours, thereby meeting criterion 1. Employees could choose to attend or not, thus meeting criterion 2. The training qualifies under an exception for criterion 3 that states that “where the training is for the benefit of the employee and corresponds to courses offered by independent bona fide institutions of learning,” the training is not considered directly related to the employee’s job. As long as employees do not perform productive work during the training, criterion 4 would be met.
The DOL concludes that such training does not qualify as hours worked under the FLSA unless the State does not require the employer to provide the training.
State laws may provide rules that are more beneficial to the employee and must be followed. Contact Vision Payroll if you have questions about this Opinion Letter.