If I’m a waitress, shouldn’t my employer pay me for mandatory training?

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If I’m a waitress, shouldn’t my employer pay me for mandatory training?

The restaurant I work at just got a new menu with new food on it. I was told I had to go to training and pass a test in order to keep my job but I didn’t get paid for training. I want to know if this is illegal and if I quit my job will I be able to collect unemployment?

Asked on September 9, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, Florida

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

It depends on the exact circumstances, though in your case, there is a reasonable chance you should have been paid. Employers can set the conditions or requirements for work, such as certain knowledge, degrees, credentials, certifications, etc. which an employee needs for a promotion or even just to maintain their job. If the credential, training, etc. is something with a general applicability--like getting a certification in a certain program, or masters--then the company does not have to pay for it. In that case, the company is basically saying you need a certain credential for the job, and if you don't have it, you can't have the job.

However, if the "training" is narrowly tailored to this job--i.e. it does not result in a generally useful credential, and a new job applicant from outside would not have it--then attending it really is part of work: the company is mandating you spend time on something *only* for its benefit, not yours. You should be paid for  the time spent.

Unfortunately, if you quit because you weren't paid for this training, you will not be eligible for unemployment. Voluntarily leaving a job does not enable you to collect unemployment compensation, even if you left for a good reason (too much stress; family relocating) or because the company treated you badly or improperly (discriminated against you by not giving you a promotion on account of your race; not paying something it should have paid). Only if the company made it impossible to do the job you were hired for (e.g. transferred you to a distant location) can you quit and get unemployment.

You can sue the company for time they should have paid you, which is probably not cost effective. Or you can contact  your state labor department and see if it will help.


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