[COLUMN] Mandatory meetings, remote training are hours worked & must be paid

Sevag Chalian worked as a pharmacist for CVS Pharmacy Inc. Chalian and other pharmacists are required by CVS to complete “mandatory training modules.” The employees were instructed to complete their training modules at home and CVS provided them remote access. The California Board of Pharmacy did not require these training for licensing purposes. Only CVS required them. Pharmacists spent hours completing the training, which CVS failed or refused to pay for.

Chalian filed a class action against CVS on behalf of himself and his fellow pharmacists claiming that CVS failed to pay all wages due for hours worked and failed to pay overtime for having to work off-the-clock.

Under California law, employees must be paid for all hours worked. “Hours worked” is defined as “the time during which an employee is subject to the control of an employer, and includes all the time the employee is suffered or permitted to work, whether or not required to do so.” This includes all the time that the employee is required to be present at the workplace. It also includes regular “on-the-clock” hours as well as any “off-the-clock” time spent performing job-related activities which benefit the employer.

Off-the-Clock Work

Off-the-clock work is performed before or after the designated shift time. For example, employees may “come early” and start working before their official starting time. Or, after the shift, employees may spend time cleaning equipment, or doing “on the way home” activities such as dropping off mail at the post office or delivering some paperwork to a customer.

Off-the-clock work may also consist of an extra work hour per day whose value may be significant if the practice persisted for years. An employee who is paid $15 per hour and has accumulated off-the-clock work hours at an average of one hour per day for the last four years may potentially have a wage claim of about $20,000.

Lectures, Meetings and Training Programs

Employees required to attend lectures and meetings or complete training programs may have an “hours worked” issue. Employees who attend lectures, meetings, and training programs must be paid for the time they do so if:

1) attendance or completion is required and the employee is made to understand that failure to attend the meeting or complete the training would adversely affect the employee’s employment; or

2) directly related to the employee’s job with the primary purpose of making the employee more efficient at doing their present job for the benefit of the employer.

In determining their work hours and the payment due to them, employees should not be deterred by words like “voluntary,” “unauthorized” or “unapproved.” Work performed voluntarily, or without authorization or approval, may still be compensable if the employer knows or should know work is being done and permits the employee to do it.

In addition, all the time spent performing work-related activities permitted by the employer is work time, whether the work is “required” by the employer or not. These would include work performed “at home” or at a place other than the usual work site. Employers who accept the benefits of the work performed by its non-exempt employees must pay the wages due to the employees.

The pharmacists’ case was resolved by settlement, with the employer agreeing to pay $9,750,000 in damages.

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The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the Asian Journal, its management, editorial board and staff.

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The Law Offices of C. Joe Sayas, Jr. welcomes inquiries about this topic. All inquiries are confidential and at no-cost. You can contact the office at (818) 291-0088 or visit www.joesayaslaw.com. [For more than 25 years, C. Joe Sayas, Jr., Esq. successfully recovered wages and other monetary damages for thousands of employees and consumers. He was named Top Labor & Employment Attorney in California by the Daily Journal, consistently selected as Super Lawyer by the Los Angeles Magazine, and is a past Presidential Awardee for Outstanding Filipino Overseas.]

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