Wage and Hour Division (WHD)
Opinion Letters - Fair Labor Standards Act
January 15, 2009
This is in response to your letter requesting an opinion regarding whether time spent by employees taking web-based prerequisite classes at home in preparation for a voluntary job-related training class is compensable time under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Based on the information provided, it is our opinion that such time is compensable under the FLSA.
Your client, a communications company (“the Company”), employs technicians who install, monitor, and service voice and data communications circuits. The technicians’ duties include working with a networking system manufactured by Tellabs. The networking system, the Tellabs 5500, connects offices within a company and allows different offices to use the same server and to access the same data.
Tellabs offers advanced training in the Tellabs 5500 equipment. The Company hired Tellabs to teach a training class to some of the Company’s technicians about the Tellabs 5500’s new and advanced features. The training class is voluntary. The class will be offered during regular working hours. Technicians who take the class will be compensated for time spent in the class. There will only be spaces for eight of the Company’s approximately 75 technicians and spaces will be offered on a first-come-first-served basis.
You state that technicians who complete the class will be able to perform some of their present job duties involving the Tellabs 5500 equipment more proficiently by using the system’s advanced features. Technicians who do not take the class will nonetheless be able to perform their current job duties, as they are already skilled in the system’s basic functions.
Tellabs requires that technicians taking the training class must first complete four web-based prerequisite classes. It is expected that the technicians will take the prerequisite classes on their own time at their homes. It is estimated that each prerequisite class will take approximately ten hours to complete.
You seek an opinion on the following question: “Is the Company legally obliged to compensate employees for the time they spend outside of normal working hours at their own home completing the required prerequisite classes prior to taking the voluntary Tellabs training class?”
The FLSA requires than an employer compensate an employee for all hours worked. Section 3 of the FLSA defines “employee” as “any individual employed by an employer,” 29 U.S.C. § 203(e)(1), and “employ” as including “to suffer or permit to work.” 29 U.S.C. § 203(g); see also 29 C.F.R. § 785.11. This rule applies to work performed away from the premises or the job site, including work performed at home. “If the employer knows or has reason to believe that the work is being performed, he must count the time as hours worked.” 29 C.F.R. § 785.12.
The Department’s regulations provide that certain training activities need not be treated as hours worked. The general rules for determining the compensability of training time are set forth in 29 C.F.R. §§ 785.27 through 785.32. Sections 785.27, 785.29, and 785.31 are of particular relevance to your question. As indicated in section 785.27, “training programs and similar activities need not be counted as working time if the following four criteria are met”: