To pay or not to pay trainees

March 20, 2017

When Kathryn Otico spent 10 days at the Oakland International Airport training to work for Hawaiian Airlines, she expected to be paid for her time. But when training ended, Otico learned that Hawaiian Airlines had no intention of paying her. Otico became so upset that she filed a lawsuit against Hawaiian Airlines looking for compensation.

Otico was disappointed to find out that the court agreed with Hawaiian Airlines. The court said that Otico’s classroom training, time spent touring the facility, and time spent becoming familiar with Hawaiian’s computer system in no way added any value to Hawaiian’s operations. The case was dismissed, but it brings up a topic that rarely gets discussed in the media. Should employees always expect to be paid for orientation training?

The question was answered, in no uncertain terms, by a U.S. District Court that reinforced the criteria used by the Department of Justice to determine if an employee should be paid for training. According to the court, an employee should not expect pay for training if:

The company training is also offered by trade schools
The training is set up to benefit the trainee
Trainees do real work under the guidance of employees but do not replace those employees in their work tasks
The training does not benefit the employer and actually causes disruptions in the employer’s operations
The employer and employee have an understanding that training is not paid
Completion of training does not automatically mean that the employee will be offered further employment.

In Ms. Otico’s case, she should have confirmed whether or not training was paid before she started. Since her training involved no interaction with customers, Hawaiian Airlines easily proved that Otico deserved no compensation.

Many employers advertise paid training in order to attract new employees to their companies. But if the employer does not imply a promise of pay during training, then employees need to understand that the law is on the side of employers when it comes to not paying for training that meets some or all of the listed criteria set forth by the Department of Justice.

If you have questions about paid training and your rights at work, our competent attorneys can help. Call us today for further assistance.

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