Opinion letter from DOL lays out common scenarios

During the pandemic, webinars have replaced many in-person training opportunities for employees, and this time may be compensable.

The Dept. of Labor (DOL) offered guidance, in a recent opinion letter, on when attending webinars should be considered paid working time.

Training guidelines

Per the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) regs, time spent on training and webinars doesn’t have to be paid if:

  • Attendance is outside of regular working hours
  • Attendance is voluntary
  • The training isn’t directly related to the employee’s job, and
  • The employee doesn’t perform any productive work during training

In Opinion Letter FLSA 2020-15, the DOL addressed several situations in which webinar attendance time does have to be paid.

If the worker attends a webinar that’s directly related to their job during working hours, that time must be paid, even if the person has the option of attending the webinar during their off hours or if attendance is voluntary.

The same is true if an employer allows employees to attend webinars during working hours that aren’t directly related to their jobs. However, employers are allowed to forbid workers from viewing unrelated webinars while they’re on the clock.

Also, as long as the other criteria are met, an employee who voluntarily attends a work-related webinar during off hours doesn’t have to be paid.