As we discussed previously in our “FLSA – Hours Worked” series, there are circumstances when it may be unclear whether an employee’s time should be counted as hours worked for purposes of minimum wage and overtime requirements set forth in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). One of the more common situations when this question arises is when employees participate in meetings, seminars, lectures, or training.
According to regulations, an employee’s time attending a meeting, seminar, lecture, or training must be counted as hours worked unless it meets each of four requirements:
- the attendance is outside the employee’s regular working hours;
- the attendance is in fact voluntary;
- the meeting, seminar, lecture, or training is not directly related to the employee’s job; and
- the employee does not perform productive work while attending the meeting, seminar, lecture, or training.
If each of these four requirements is met, the employer does not need to count the employee’s time attending a meeting, seminar, lecture, or training as hours worked.
Attendance is in fact voluntary if the employee would not suffer any adverse employment action if he or she did not intend. 29 CFR 785.28 Adverse employment actions include, but are not limited to, discharge, discipline, loss of pay, denial of a wage increase, loss of promotion or other opportunity, or loss of job duties. If the employer would impose any of the foregoing or any other adverse actions if the employee fails to attend, the attendance is not voluntary.
Training directly related to an employee’s job
Perhaps the most difficult of the four elements to understand is the requirement that the meeting, seminar, lecture, or training be unrelated to the employee’s job. This does not mean that the meeting, seminar, lecture, or training cannot be job related in any manner. Instead, this requirement is directed specifically towards the job duties currently performed by the employee. 29 CFR 785.29 In other words, if the meeting, seminar, lecture, or training is meant to help the employee perform his or her current job duties more effectively, the time should be counted as hours worked. If on the other hand, the employee intends to learn a new or additional skill, the time would not be counted as hours worked, assuming the other three requirements were also met.
The regulations note two exceptions to its directly-related requirement. First, an employer does not need to count an employee’s time attending a meeting, seminar, lecture, or training if the employee’s decision to attend was independent from any notice, prompting, or encouragement from his or her employer. 29 CFR 785.30. For example, if the employee completes online training at home after work based solely on her own initiative, the employer does not need to count the time as hours worked even if it is directly related to her work. Second, there are some special situations where the relatedness of the meeting, seminar, lecture, or training is not relevant. 29 CFR 785.31. The example given by the regulations is when an employer establishes a program of instruction for the benefit of its employees that corresponds with a course offered by an independent bona-fide institution of learning. So long as attendance is voluntary, the employer does not need to count an employee’s time attending such an event even if it is directly related to their job.
As can be seen, there is essentially a presumption that time spent by employees attending meetings, seminars, lectures, and training related to work should be counted as hours worked for purposes of minimum wage and overtime under the FLSA. However, the presumption can be overcome when the four requirements discussed above are met. If you are uncertain whether meeting, seminar, lecture, or training time should be compensated, it may be worth consulting with a lawyer who specializes in employment law to avoid or limit liability.
Below are links to other topics covered in our FLSA – Hours Worked series:
- Travel time
- Waiting time
- On-Call time
- Rest and meal periods
- Sleeping time
- Meeting and training time
- Show-up time
- Time suffered or permitted to work
- Unauthorized time (coming soon)
* States may have their own minimum wage and overtime laws, including their own standards for when an employee must be paid for meeting, seminar, lecture, or training time. Employers are required to apply the federal or state minimum and overtime law that provides employees the greatest benefits. For more information on state minimum wage and overtime laws, visit our pages on minimum wage and overtime.
Contributed by Suzanne Mathews