Today’s burning question: I was recently hired as a firefighter and my department requires me to get my paramedic license within my first year. The department gives me time off to attend classes when I am scheduled to work but they do not pay me for the time I spend attending class when off-duty. The training chief told me the department doesn’t have to pay for paramedic training. Is that right? They are requiring that I have my paramedic. How can they avoid paying me for my time?
Answer: The general rule under the FLSA is that an employer must compensate employees for time spent in employer mandated training. However, as is often the case with the FLSA, there are exceptions to the general rule. Required training for paramedic licensure may lie squarely within one of these exceptions depending upon the specific facts and circumstances.
The US Department of Labor regulation entitled “Training Time” 29 CFR §553.226, exempts state and local government employers from having to compensate certain employees for required training. Here is what it says:
(b) While time spent in attending training required by an employer is normally considered compensable hours of work, following are situations where time spent by employees of State and local governments in required training is considered to be noncompensable:
(1) Attendance outside of regular working hours at specialized or follow-up training, which is required by law for certification of public and private sector employees within a particular governmental jurisdiction (e.g., certification of public and private emergency rescue workers), does not constitute compensable hours of work for public employees within that jurisdiction and subordinate jurisdictions.
(2) Attendance outside of regular working hours at specialized or follow-up training, which is required for certification of employees of a governmental jurisdiction by law of a higher level of government (e.g., where a State or county law imposes a training obligation on city employees), does not constitute compensable hours of work.
(3) Time spent in the training described in paragraphs (b) (1) or (2) of this section is not compensable, even if all or part of the costs of the training is borne by the employer.
For state and local employers to qualify for this exemption, the required training must be outside of normal working hours and required by law for certification or recertification. Whether the employer pays the cost of the training is irrelevant to determining if the training is compensable.
The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals recently applied this regulation to Memphis firefighters who were training to become paramedics. In Misewicz v. City of Memphis, TN, No. 14-5053, (2014) the Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling that the City of Memphis did not have to pay newly hired firefighters to attend paramedic classes while off-duty.
This is one of many exceptions and exemptions found in the FLSA that will be discussed at all of the upcoming FLSA for fire departments classes. Our 2017 lineup includes Georgetown, Texas, Miami, Florida, and Hanover Park, Illinois.