Employers (and thus courts) continue to be confronted with private litigation and DOL rulemaking seeking to expand the scope of wage-and-hour liabilities, such as expanding the definition of employee, seeking to narrow the scope of a longstanding exemption or expanding the definition of what constitutes compensable work. Rejecting a claim based on the latter theory, Judge Andrew J. Guilford of the Central District of California required pleading of a direct connection between alleged activity and an employee’s job before proceeding to the discovery phase. Nikmanesh, et al. v. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. et al., C.D. Cal. 15-CV-00202, 03/16/15.
In Nikmanesh, Plaintiff, a long-term pharmacist for Wal-Mart, claimed time spent taking the APHA Immunication Certification Training Course was compensable work under the wage-and-hour laws. Rejecting this claim (though with leave to re-plead), Judge Guilford noted that Plaintiff had failed to tie the taking of the course to any requirement of or direction from his employer. Further, the Court observed:
it would be absurd to say that an employer must pay for any and all activities ‘directly related’ to its employees’ jobs without considering the employer’s conduct. Many employees undoubtedly spend hours of personal time educating themselves on things ‘directly related’ to their jobs so they might be better, more marketable employees. A scientist might read journals for personal growth. A computer programmer might learn a new programming language. A teacher might attend a seminar. Without more, they have no claim to payment for that time.
The United States Department of Labor has promulgated its own interpretation regarding the compensability of training time, through regulations and the applicable Fact Sheet. 29 C.F.R. § 785.29; USDOL Fact Sheet #22. Employers regularly must analyze all activities required of or permitted to be performed by their employees and assess whether such activities are compensable.