FLSA Does Not Require Pay for College Training

April 25, 2008
In February 2004, Paul Loodeen applied for a paid internship position with Consumers Energy, and agreed to complete requirements for a "customer energy specialist" educational certificate within two years of hire. Following his hire, Loodeen began taking the required courses for the certificate at a community college, and Consumers Energy reimbursed him for tuition.

    Loodeen filed a Fair Labor Standards Act lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan, seeking $7,000 in back pay for class, homework and travel time he spent taking the required courses for the certificate. The district court dismissed the lawsuit in favor of Consumers Energy.

    According to the court, the FLSA did not require compensation because courses taken by Loodeen were not "integral and indispensable" to the performance of his principal activities. It found that U.S. Department of Labor regulations, which provide that an employee’s attendance at "lectures, meetings, training programs and similar activities" do not constitute compensable time under the FLSA if voluntary and outside of regular working hours. Loodeen’s courses were "regular college classes taken apart from plaintiff’s employment, as part of a multi-year attempt to qualify for a new position with the company," not mandatory continuing education or recertification. Loodeen v. Consumers Energy Co., W.D. Mich., No. 1:06-cv-848 (3/14/08).

    Impact: Employers are advised to review FLSA regulations with regard to whether time spent to complete job-related education constitutes hours worked for which pay is required.