Employment Law Blog

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Jan 06, 2014

Do I need to pay employees for their time spent studying?

Q&AWage and Hour 

Q: Are we required to pay employees for study time, if they’re required to pass a certification test as part of their job?

A: Yes, if a nonexempt employee is required to obtain or retain a certificate as part of their job, and they need to study for a test in order to do so, then that time should be compensated. In fact, there are actually very few circumstances when employers don’t have to pay a nonexempt employee who is undergoing training for their job. Training time doesn’t have to be compensated only if all of the following factors are met:

  1. Attendance is outside regular working hours
  2. Attendance is voluntary
  3. Training is not directly related to the employee’s job
  4. The employee does not perform productive work while attending training

The only exception is classroom work under certain qualified apprenticeship programs. When an employee takes time to study for a certification test that is required for their current job, it’s considered job-related, non-voluntary training, which means it should be compensated. One Oregon employer is currently facing a class action lawsuit on this exact issue: a group of nurses is suing a hospital employer, because they spent hours of uncompensated time studying for exams for employer-required certifications. Despite the hospital’s effort to have the class action dismissed, an Oregon federal district court recently ruled that the class action lawsuit can move forward (Giles v. St. Charles Health System, Inc., D Or, Oct. 2013).
 
For exempt employees, there’s no need to pay them additional compensation for their studying and/or training time, since they receive the same salary regardless of the amount of time they work. But for nonexempt employees, be sure you know the rules for paying for training and/or studying time before the issue comes up. Use our Legal Guide, “Compensation for Training Time” (1164) to get up to speed on the rules and see our Model Form, “Timekeeping Systems for Nonexempt Employees” (1624), for nonexempt employee time tracking assistance. Call your Vigilant staff representative if you have specific questions.

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