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Unpaid training

We are located in Texas. We operate a call center. Many times a person leaves after first 2-3 days of being hired during the training phase. Can we require person complete first five days of training period? If they do not complete the 5 days they recieve no pay. If they complete the 5 days they are paid.

No, this would be illegal. Under both federal law and Texas law, employees are entitled to payment for every hour that they work. This is true, even if the employee works only an hour or two before quitting. The relevant laws are the federal FLSA or Fair Labor Standards Act and the Texas minimum wage law. The Texas minimum  wage, like the federal minimum wage, is $6.55 per hour. Paying the employee who quits after two days $0 per hour for 16 hours is paying less than the minimum wage. Therefore, it is illegal.

Or, to quote my favorite U.S. Department of Labor Wage advisor, *Paying workers nothing is slavery. Slavery was outlawed in the U.S. in the 1800s.*

We will add that your dilemma is not that unusual. In some occupations, or for companies that are hard to work for, it is very common for the employee to go to lunch on the first day …and never come back. When an employee quits after 2 or 3 days, the job was probably not a good fit for his or her personality, anyway. It is probably better to have the person quit after 2 days than to invest 5 or 10 days in training the person, and have them quit.

There are three strategies that you might consider implementing. One is better selection. Obviously, the people who are hired are not being given a clear idea of the actual job or working conditions during the interview. You might consider more disclosure during the interview, to avoid hiring employees who are not a good fit.  You might also consider some form of personality or skills testing, to help select employees better suited to this job.

You may find that the intial training is too intense or demanding for new employees. Experienced workers often underestimate how hard it is for new employees to learn the relevant skills. So you might consider revamping your training process to make it less intense, cutting it down to half days, or devoting part of the time to watching a training video.

Perhaps you find that employees who  make it through the training process usually work out. You might provide new workers with an incentive, such as a $100 bonus, when they complete the 5-day training process. (However, if your selection does not improve, you may find that employees quit the day after they receive the bonus.)


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This entry was posted on Tuesday, April 14th, 2009 at 10:27 am and is filed under
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4 Responses to “Unpaid training”

  1. DTusa Says:

    I was informed in Texas- a call center can you require the “applicants” not to be paid as long as they know it is “voluntary” and not mandatory. This unpaid status would be during their training period but they would be made full aware at the time of application that training is voluntary and unpaid until the training is completed, once completed and exams passed, the applicant would then be paid.
    Would that be okay?

  2. Caitlin Says:

    Hi DTusa! No, this is not legal. We have heard of some call centers that try to get away with this, but it is a violation of both the Texas and federal minimum wage laws. Those laws require that an employee be paid for all hours worked, and that on-the-job training be counted as work. This is true, even if the employee fails the exam. An employee cannot voluntarily give up his or her right to the minimum wage. Nor can a business allow unpaid volunteers to work.
    Of course, an employee could accept this job and then file a wage complaint with the Texas Workforce Commission when they are not paid for training. It is illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee who files a wage complaint in good faith.

    Employees need not be paid for training that would apply to a range of different companies or an entire industry. However, when job training is specific to one company, or the employer controls where or when the training is conducted, employees are entitled to payment for it. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  3. Felix Says:

    I run a seasonal operation. This operation requires classroom training. Training takes about 4 weeks. We offer day and night training. Without this training applicants could not do the job. No job offers are made until applicant completes training. No time is paid while they incur class room hours to complete training.
    Does this training have to be paid?

  4. hrlady Says:

    Hi Felix,
    The FLSA requires non-exempt employees be paid for all hours worked in a workweek. Attendance hours at training programs are not required to be counted as working time only if four criteria are met: it is outside normal hours, it is voluntary, not job related, and no other work is concurrently performed. However, if these criteria are not met the employee must be paid at least minimum wage for the hours in training.

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