Do you get paid for training at a job?

Under California employment law, employers are legally obligated to pay employees for time spent training for a job. It is illegal for employers to require employees to undergo unpaid training.

Author: Brad Nakase, Attorney

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Under California law, employers must pay employees when training for a job. However, there are certain conditions to this statement. Whether or not an employer has to pay depends on whether the training is required for work, what the purpose of the training is, and when the training takes place.

In this article, our employment attorney in Los Angeles discusses if CA employers have to pay for training as follows:

California Law On Mandatory Training Wage for A Job

California Wage Laws mandate employers to pay all non-exempt hourly employees for attending mandatory company meetings. The hours during the mandatory training must be compensated at their standard hourly rate. The time spent at work meetings and training qualifies as “hours worked.” Hours worked, legally speaking, means the time during which an employee is under his employer’s control. California employees who are required to attend training must be paid their regular rate of pay, regardless of where the training is held (on location, an alternate location, or online). This applies if the training occurs during the first eight hours of the workday.

If the mandatory training goes past the first eight hours of the day, employees should receive overtime pay for the time spent doing training.

If an employer does not compensate his employees for off-the-clock training, then he or she may be sued for denying earned wages.

Example A: Juanita is the manager of a nail salon. She requires new employees to go through a three-week training course. The training takes place at the salon after work, lasting two hours each day. Juanita considers the training to be part an introductory period, and she does not think it necessary to pay her employees for completing it. Under California law, Juanita’s training program is illegal. She must compensate her employees for the off-the-clock training.

Example B: Felix is the owner of a pet store. He requires new employees to do a two-week training course where they learn to care for the animals. The course takes place at the store every day after work, lasting an hour and a half. He makes sure to pay his employees overtime for their training period. One disgruntled employee tries to sue Felix for making her have training after work hours. But Felix is entitled to have a mandatory training period so long as he pays his employees for it. Therefore, the lawsuit is thrown out.

Example C: Dawn is the manager of an office. Her company has a mandatory training period, where a two-hour meeting is held three times a week for new employees. Because no work is getting done during these meetings, Dawn pays these new employees only half of their hourly wage. Dawn could be facing a lawsuit, because the new employees are entitled to their regular pay for on-the-clock training.

The Federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)

Under FLSA, workers must be paid for meetings and training unless participation is not required for the job. Under the FLSA, training courses need to be compensated unless all of the following apply:

  • Attendance is not required
  • Participation is voluntary
  • The training occurs outside regular hours
  • No work is performed during the training
  • The training is not job-related

To determine if training is job-related, one must consider the requirements for the current position. If, for example, the training instructs employees on how to use a computer program necessary for the job, then the training must be compensated. But let’s say an employee wants a promotion and takes a training course on a program only used by those higher-level employees. Because the training course is not required for his or her current position, the employer does not have to pay for training.

Example: Johan runs a retail store that sells apparel. His store employees don’t need to use Microsoft Excel to do their jobs, but Johan considers it a valuable career skill. He offers new employees training in Excel every Saturday for the first month of employment. The course is optional, and the practice Excel sheets are not work-related. When an employee demands to be compensated for his attendance, Johan explains that the employee is not owed payment under California law. The course is optional, not during work hours, and no work is performed.

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