Employers frequently require people to attend training seminars without compensation. This usually occurs before an employee is formally “hired.” It comes with the caveat that the individual is not compensated for the time spent in the employer’s training courses.
Does the law require employers to compensate trainees for this time? The United States Department of Labor and our courts have issued various opinion letters on this topic. It comes down to whether the trainee is “employed” within the meaning of the Fair Labor Standards Act. If the person is deemed to be an employee, then the employer must pay for the training time.
According to the Department of Labor (click here for the Opinion Letter), trainees are not considered employees only if all of the following are true:
- The training is similar to what would be given in a vocational school or academic educational instruction;
- The training is for the benefit of the trainees or students;
- The trainees or students do not displace regular employees, but work under their close observation;
- The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the trainees or students, and on occasion the employer’s operations may actually be impeded;
- The trainees or students are not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the training period; and
- The employer and the trainees or students understand that the trainees or students are not entitled to wages for the time spent in training.
Thus, for example, in Herman v. Hogar Praderas de Amor, Inc., 130 F. Supp. 2d 257 (D.P.R. 2001), the Court determined that nurse’s aides, maintenance and laundry workers, and kitchen workers were entitled to compensation for time spent in two-day “training” sessions during which the trainees spent most of the time working.