The Department of Labor published a new opinion letter, giving some guidance on whether employees need to be paid for time they spend taking online training courses at home.
An employer asked the DOL about this situation:
Employees are offered an optional training course on a computer application they use to do their work. Everyone is already trained on the basics and has enough skills to perform their duties. But the optional course provides advanced knowledge, which lets them work more efficiently.
The training includes online courses employees are expected to take at home on their own time. Most of the employees taking the course are nonexempt — do they need to be paid for what they do at home?
The DOL’s answer: Yes.
Time spent attending training doesn’t have to be paid if all of these criteria are met:
- the training occurs outside the employee’s normal working hours
- attendance is voluntary
- the information learned is not directly related to an employee’s job, and
- the employee doesn’t do any work during the session.
In this example, the training was directly related to how employees did their jobs — it helped them perform their work more easily — so the time had to be paid.