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If a specific certification is required in an employee's job, is my company required to pay for the time spent attending training to obtain the certification? What about paying for the course itself?

The  Fair Labor Standards Act's (FLSA) requirement for employers to pay for nonexempt employees' training time depends on the following criteria:

  • The training must be voluntary.
  • The training must take place outside of normal work hours.
  • The training should not be directly related to the performance of the employee's job.
  • No work should be performed during the training.

All conditions must be satisfied in order for the training not to be considered compensable time.

Some of these requirements can cause confusion for employers. For example, if the training is outside of normal work hours, has no job relevance, no work is performed during the training, but the training is required for the job, does that make it compensable? In most cases, the answer is yes.

However, if all things remain the same in the above example, except that the end result of the training—such as a degree or certificate—rather than the actual attendance is what is required for the employee's job, the training or coursework is probably not compensable time. In other words, when obtaining a certificate is involuntary, but the coursework or training that is one means to achieve the certificate is voluntary, the time spent in training may not be considered compensable time.

Whether the employer would be required to compensate the employee for the cost of the coursework, training program or seminar is a matter of the employer's policy, contracts, union agreements and any relevant state law, as it is not currently required under federal labor law.

Employers should consult the FLSA regulations on compensable training time and may want to consult their attorneys for further guidance.


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