In general, hourly workers are paid only for time they actually spend performing their job duties. But there are exceptions. For example, courts have recently ruled that workers should also be paid for time they spend putting on and taking off safety equipment, and even for time they spend showering before leaving the premises if they have been working with hazardous materials.
And according to a federal judge in Chicago, training and orientation for new hourly hires who haven’t started work yet should be considered paid time as well.
In that case, nearly 10,000 people hired to work as security guards for Securitas Security Services USA were forced to attend an unpaid orientation and training session before starting their employment.
The guards brought a class-action lawsuit seeking pay for the training session, and a judge approved a six-figure settlement.
However, not all training is necessarily on-the-clock. For example, a federal appeals court in St. Louis recently decided that H&R Block – which makes all of its seasonal tax preparers go through a 24-hour educational update before being rehired for tax season each year – doesn’t have to pay the preparers for the training.
According to the court, the tax preparers aren’t “employees” when they undergo the training. That’s because they work only during the tax season, they have to reapply each year, and they can collect unemployment during the off-season.
As you can see, the rules can be complicated and confusing.