leadvisor 14 Posts
We have officers attending the law enforcement academy at our expense and they are paid their regular rate of pay they while are there. From time to time they are required to do "home work" for class the next day. Are we required to pay for that time under FLSA? It seems really open to abuses by the officers.
The answer to your question largely hinges on "mandatory." First, is the training these officers are seeking mandatory for them to maintain their jobs (or licensure related to their jobs) or is it closely related to their current jobs? Second, is the homework mandatory for/instrumental to successful completion of the class?
If both of the above are true, then this is the strongest case for the time spent doing homework to be compensable.
As you noted, this is certainly an area that can be abused, but the good news is that, as the employer, you may create an internal policy that places limits on the amount of time employees are permitted to spend on homework (just as employers may limit employees from working overtime). The limitation would, obviously, need to be related to the type of homework/work/training, and you would certainly want it to be a reasonable limit (to ensure that your officers are able to successfully get the benefit out of the training that you're already paying them to receive). You may be able to work with the academy or the instructors for guidance on this.
The biggest caveat here, though, is the same as for all overtime. If the employees work the hours and you have reason to know that they're working them, then you must pay them, internal/company limitation or no. So if you set a 20-hour limit on homework for a training module, and an employee turns in 40 hours of homework time, you must pay for those hours. You can't discipline the employee by refusing to pay for the time or strictly enforce the 20-hour cutoff. (The homework time overage could, of course, be a factor in whether you permitted the employee to pursue additional training in the future).
One additional caveat: In limiting employees' time spent on homework assignments, keep the ADA in mind. You may have employees who need extra time to complete homework assignments due to an ADA-protected disability. If employees request reasonable accommodations for these assignments, follow the same process that you would for accommodations during work hours/in the workplace.
I hope this information is helpful!