On-Demand Training Webinars May Count as FLSA Working Time, Says DOL

Author: Michael Cardman, XpertHR Legal Editor

November 12, 2020

Employers may need to pay employees for time they spend viewing on-demand training webinars, according to the US Department of Labor (DOL).

In a new opinion letter, the DOL reminded employers that employee participation during regular work hours in a training program that directly relates to their jobs is considered compensable working time under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

It does not matter that the on-demand webinars the employer described in requesting the opinion letter are voluntary and could have been viewed outside of regular work hours, because work that an employer "suffers or permits" is work time, even if the employer did not request it, the DOL said.

To avoid this problem, an employer could establish a policy prohibiting employees from viewing training webinars (and performing any other off-the-clock work) during regular working hours.

The DOL's opinion letter also addressed five other scenarios involving employee training time.

An opinion letter is an official, written opinion from the DOL's Wage and Hour Division (WHD) describing how a particular law applies to specific circumstances. If an employer requests an opinion letter from the WHD, provides the agency with all the pertinent facts regarding its particular situation, receives an opinion letter from the WHD and then follows the opinion letter in good faith, it will be shielded from liability for any minimum wage and/or overtime violations involving the practices described in its letter.

Even if they had not requested an opinion letter themselves, other employers that have identical fact patterns also can be shielded from liability if they follow an opinion letter. However, an employer should exercise caution before relying on another employer's opinion letter because any variation in the fact pattern may nullify its defense.