The US Department of Labor (DOL) recently issued Administrator signed Opinion Letter FLSA2009-15. 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 confirmed that time spent studying for city-required training programs, seminars, and classes is compensable under the FLSA, but the time spent studying may be limited by the city. Regardless, all time spent studying is compensable even if it exceeds the limits set.
The city in question requires employees to attend and pass certain training programs designed to assist the employees in their jobs. Although the training is during normal working hours, “homework” is often assigned by the instructor. The homework is generally reading or studying certain material in preparation for future classroom discussion.
There are four criteria to determine if training programs and similar activities should be treated as compensable time:
- 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.
Since criteria 1. ,2., and 3. are not met, the time spent by the employees in class must be compensated.
Homework required as part of a compensable training program is also itself compensable. The city may set a realistic limit on the time that employees spend studying. It is the responsibility of the city to see that such limits are not exceeded, but any time spent over the limit is still compensable. Alternatively, the city could allow employees time during their normal work day to complete any homework.
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.