November 03, 2020

To Pay or Not to Pay: DOL Addresses Training and Travel Time

On November 3rd, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued two new opinion letters. The information itself might not be new. But it may be of interest to see understand how the DOL applied its existing regulations to current situations, including LOTS of questions about paying employees for remote learning.

In one letter, the DOL addresses (in part) six questions posed by an employer, The questions revolve around when a non-exempt employee who volunteers to attend webinars or webcasts on or off duty, that may or may not relate to his or her job, and for which the employer pays the costs constitute time worked that must be paid. For example:

Q1: Is the time an employee spends voluntarily watching a webinar during the employee’s regular working hours that is not related to his or her job considered time worked, which must be paid?

Q2: What about time voluntarily spent watching a webinar that is job-related but the time spent is outside the employee’s working hours?

A: Yes, to both! The DOL reminds us that time an employee spends in lectures, meetings, training programs and similar activities is not considered time worked if all four of the following factors are met: (1) attendance is outside the employee’s regular working hours; (2) attendance is in fact voluntary; (3) the course, lecture or meetings is not directly related to the employee’s job; and (d) the employee does not perform any productive work during such attendance.

NOTE: What the DOL did not answer were the employer’s questions about whether the employee could be required to use paid leave, such as vacation or PTO when attending a webinar during work time.

The other letter addressed an employer’s three questions about employees’ travel time to worksites under various scenarios: as a passenger; driving their own vehicle; during or outside of regular working hours; locally or to a remote location.  For example:

Q1:If an employer offers transportation from the employer’s place of business to a local work site and the employee chooses to drive him or herself, does the employee’s travel time count as time worked?

Q2: In the same scenario above, what if the employee accepts the employer’s offer, drives to the principle location and then is a passenger in a vehicle that takes the employee to the work site – does that travel time count as time worked?

A: No, to all!  The DOL again reminds us that employees’ “travel time to and from a local job site is normal commuting between home and work, which is not compensable. Their choice to meet at the employer’s place of business and from there ride with the foreman in the company truck as part of their travel time does not transform the commute into compensable work time.”

Want more wage and hour updates? If you missed FiveL Company’s November webcast, “Employment Law Update 2020: The Year in Review,” you can access the archived recording after November 27th. Just click here and scroll down to “Archived Events.” Still provides 1.25 HRCI & SHRM credits. $25 pp.