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Rand L. Stephens & Richard Koss

Wage Laws on Mandatory Training in CA

Lecture and training in business office for white collar colleagues. Focus on hands of speaker.

Some employers try to skirt overtime and minimum wage laws by requiring employees to attend mandatory training without pay. Many workers believe if they are called in to attend training outside of work hours that they are not entitled to compensation for that time. California and federal wage and hour laws dictate which hours must be compensated, and there are specific rules concerning training and coursework. Continue reading to learn about mandatory training and wages in California, and call a seasoned California employment attorney with any questions or for help with an employment-related matter.

CA Employees Are Guaranteed Pay for Mandatory Time

California law requires employers to pay employees for all of the time they spend working. Unless the employee falls into an exempt category, whenever an employee is working, they must be paid. Failing to pay employees for working time is a violation of California’s labor law and subjects the employer to liability.

Whether training counts as compensable work time turns on whether the training is mandatory. California law dictates that whenever an employee is required to be somewhere for work, they must be compensated. The California Wage Orders define “hours worked” as “the time during which an employee is subject to the control of an employer.”

That means that whenever an employee is required to attend a company meeting, whether during or after work hours, they must be compensated. Workers who are required to attend mandatory training must likewise be compensated for those hours. If a worker has to show up on the weekend or after “clocking out” in order to attend a training, regardless of whether the training is conducted at work, at an off-site training center, or even on a webinar, the training counts as work hours.

Moreover, those hours count toward California’s other rules pertaining to meal breaks, rest breaks, and overtime. If a worker spends four hours in mandatory training and six hours working their normal job, the worker must be paid overtime for the additional two hours beyond the traditional eight-hour workday. The hours during the mandatory training must be compensated at their standard hourly rate, and extra hours beyond eight in a day or 40 in a workweek must be paid at time and a half in accordance with the overtime laws.

California also requires employers to pay for work-related expenses, including training expenses. If an employee must purchase equipment or materials to attend mandatory training, then the employer must either purchase those materials or reimburse the employee.

Limitations: Voluntary Activities and Try-Out Time

There are certain limitations on when training and other “non-productive” work time must be compensated. The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) determines what counts as working hours. Under FLSA, training and coursework are considered work hours unless all of the following conditions are true:

  • Participation in the training is voluntary (not required) for the job
  • The training is not job-related
  • Training takes place outside of normal work hours, AND
  • The worker does no actual work during the training

Additionally, employers may not need to compensate workers whom they test and assess as part of the hiring process. An employer assessing an employee’s skills as part of the hiring process is not required to pay the worker for that time so long as:

  • The time is not actually used as training time
  • The work performed is not of a “productive” nature (i.e., doesn’t produce anything of value for the employer)
  • The time spent testing is reasonable in duration

If you are a San Francisco employee or employer in need of advice or representation concerning wage and hour disputes, retaliation, whistleblower protections, workplace discrimination, or other California labor law issues, contact the Bay Area employment law attorneys Richard Koss and Rand L. Stephens at 650-722-7046 on the San Francisco Peninsula, or 925-757-1700 in the East Bay.

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