Employees must be paid for time spent attending employer trainings. Unfortunately, the airline industry often require their new hires to attend orientation and/or training that is not paid.
This unpaid training requirement prevalent in many airlines not only deters job seekers, but is also potentially illegal—and has led many to file class-action lawsuits against some of the top airlines in the country.
The Problem with Unpaid Training in the Airline Industry
For many, working in the skies is a dream career. But like all things worth pursuing, you have to go through the weeds to get to the meadow. The weeds in this case are mandatory training programs that take advantage of workers.
Companies like American Airlines require all flight attendants to undergo a 6-week mandatory training program. Individuals must take classroom, online, and hands-on courses to get their wings—all without the certainty of a guaranteed position.
Additionally, in-person courses take place at designated locations that could require you to travel long distances for an extended stay until you complete the program.
This policy may be a violation of wage and hour laws.
Ongoing Training & Other Wage and Hour Violations
Even if flight attendants do get hired after completing training, their wage and hour problems often persist. Attendants aren’t paid during time spent boarding, deplaning, or experiencing delays. Workers are also required to complete mandatory quarterly training modules for which they are not paid.
This ongoing training must be completed outside regular work hours, and employees could face repercussions if they fail to complete the modules. This causes many workers to go over their hourly limit without overtime pay.
Class Action Lawsuits Have Been Filed Against Major Airlines
Airlines instituting these unpaid training programs have experienced a lot of backlash from the public—and those affected by these policies aren’t afraid to share their grievances. Class action lawsuits like Otico v. Hawaiian Airlines, Inc. and Wilhelm v. American Airlines, Inc are examples of the cases that have been brought forward under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Are Airlines Required to Pay for Training?
It depends. But in most cases, yes. The time you spend during any form of mandatory training is called “compensable time.” That means that the employer must pay you for your training. However, the keyword here is “mandatory.” Optional training might be compensable, but it would depend on the specific circumstances.
How Do Airlines Get Away with Unpaid Training?
Since employees must be paid for mandatory training, how do so many airlines get away with not paying for training? It’s because they don’t consider their trainees to be “employees.”
Only “employees” are entitled to be paid minimum wage under the FLSA. So, if a person falls outside of the FLSA’s definition of an “employee,” they are not entitled to compensation for training time.
Whether you are an “employee” or not is an extremely fact-specific question that depends on the circumstances of your particular case. But the FLSA defines the employment relationship very broadly. If you have questions about your employment status, call our firm for a free consultation.
6 Qualifying Factors for Trainees
Six factors determine if you are entitled to compensation under the FLSA for your time spent in training, according to the Department of Labor. They include the following:
- The training is similar to what would be given in a vocational school.
- The training is for the benefit of the trainees.
- The trainees don’t displace regular employees but work under close observation.
- The organization providing the training takes no immediate advantage from trainee activities and, on occasion, company operations may be impeded by trainee activities.
- The trainees are not entitled to a job after the training period.
- Both the organization and the trainees understand that the trainees are not entitled to wages for the time spent in training.
The main thing to note here is that you should never perform tasks that a regular employee would do. If employers want to consider you a trainee, you should understand your rights and limitations.
Training Without Pay? Call Biller & Kimble, LLC
Unfortunately, employers take advantage of their loyal workers across all industries. Understanding your rights is the first step toward recovering what was lost. A competent unpaid training attorney at Biller & Kimble, LLC respects those who work hard for what they have—and when you don’t receive what you’re owed, we’ll be there to find who’s responsible. Contact us and get started on your case today by calling (513) 202-0710.