This month’s training question is, “May an employee on FMLA leave attend a worksite training seminar?”
Here is how an expert responded:
An employee who is taking leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) may attend a worksite training seminar, but employers need to keep a few things in mind to stay compliant with applicable laws, says Susan E. Prince, J.D., a legal editor for Business and Legal Resources, Inc. (BLR®), which publishes Training Forum.
“The employee would have to be paid for the time, and training time cannot count against their FMLA time. If the employee is exempt, there is the safe harbor exception for docking/paying in increments when FMLA is taken,” Prince says.
Employers should keep in mind that intermittent leave regulations are complicated and vary for exempt and nonexempt employees. For example, nonexempt employees may be docked for any time not worked during a workday because of reduced schedule leave, in accordance with normal employer practice under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), Prince says, citing BLR’s FMLA Resources Center, Guidance Document on Pay and Benefits During FMLA Leave.
However, FMLA mandates a variation from normal FLSA practice with respect to exempt employees. The U.S. Department of Labor has made it clear that the employer may make deductions from the employee’s salary for any hours taken as intermittent or reduced FMLA leave within a workweek, without affecting the employee’s exempt status.
While employees should not be forced to attend training while on FMLA leave, there are several advantages of allowing employees to attend such training if they are willing and able to do so. First, the employee would be able to attend the training session and be exposed to the training material. Second, the employee could participate in any interactive exercises and dialogue with his or her co-participants. Third, there would be no need to educate the employee on the same topic upon the employee’s return to work—or to incur additional expenses related to training that employee separately from others.