A federal district court in Arizona recently ruled that employees must be paid for time spent studying for written tests that they were required to pass in order to complete on-the-job training. A group of long-haul truck drivers filed a lawsuit against their employer alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) with respect to training time. After attending an orientation session, new hires were assigned to a mentor for behind-the-wheel training and given materials to study for three company-specific tests. The drivers had to receive a passing score on all three tests in order to keep their jobs. The company argued that it expected the drivers to study while they were on duty. However, the court found that the company knew or should have known that the employees were studying in their off-duty time in the sleeper berth of the trucks. The company had an obligation to enforce its policy and prohibit off-the-clock work. It could not “sit back and accept the benefits” of the drivers’ uncompensated studying (Julian v. Swift Inc., D Ariz, May 2019).
Tips For Employers: The FLSA and state wage and hour laws govern whether participation in lectures, meetings, training programs, and similar activities (such as studying for work-related exams) is counted as working time. The general rule is that time spent on work-related training must be paid. However, each case should be examined on its own with the advice of legal counsel. Members should reach out to your Vigilant employment attorney and see our Legal Guide, Compensation for Training Time for more information.
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