The New York Times profiled AT&T’s corporate education program where the company offers to pay for all or part of the classes employees take to help modernize their skills. The program has been in place for approximately two years and the purpose of the program, according to the article, is to “retrain its 280,000 employees so they can improve their coding skills, or learn them, and make quick business decision based on a fire hose of data coming into the company.” Employees are expected to “take these classes on their own time and sometimes pay for them with their own money.”

The article does not state whether this training time is considered compensable time for nonexempt employees, but provides a good opportunity to provider a refresher on the rules that apply when determining whether nonexempt employee time spent on training activities qualifies as compensable time.

As a general rule, attendance at lectures, meetings, training programs and similar activities does not constitute compensable time so long as

  • Attendance is outside of the employee’s regular working hours;
  • Attendance is in fact voluntary;
  • The course, lecture, or meeting is not directly related to the employee’s job; and
  • The employee does not perform any productive work during such attendance.

Where attendance is mandatory or if the employee is given to understand or led to believe that his present working conditions or the continuance of his employment would be adversely affected by nonattendance, then the training is not voluntary and it is compensable. Where the training is designed to make the employee handle his job more effectively as distinguished from training him for another job, or to a new or additional skill, the training time is directly related to the employee’s job and the time spent on training is compensable. Conversely, where the employee, on his own initiative attends an independent school, college or independent trade school after hours, the time is not hours worked for his employer even if the courses are related to his job.

An employer considering whether to adopt a training program like AT&T’s should evaluate whether such training time will be considered compensable time for nonexempt employees.

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