When should paramedics and EMTs be paid for completing online training?

Pay for training, regardless of on-duty or off-duty, depends on the requirement and intent of the training course


By Margaret Keavney

You know the drill: There’s a new piece of equipment and everyone has to get in-serviced on it. The agency wants you to do it while you’re on duty, and supplies the online video training with a post test to make sure you absorb the key points.

Should you get paid for completing that training?

Well the good news is, you did get paid for it if you watched the video and took the test while on duty. The uncertainty comes when your employer tells you to complete the in-service training while on duty, but you don’t get around to during your shift. So, you decide to watch the video and take the test at home on your day off.

Should you get paid extra for the off-duty course completion?

The first thing to know is that the agency can prohibit you from taking this work home. If you do extra work at home without permission in advance, the company can discipline you. However, they’re still required to pay you for the time you spent completing the course.

The Fair Labor Standards Act requires employers to pay employees for mandatory training. As a federal law, it applies to all employers and employees in all states. The U.S. Department of Labor enforces this law though its Wage and Hour Division. At the state level, each state has its own Department of Labor which enforces the state law requirements for wage and hour issues.

In order for employers to avoid paying for extra hours for employees to take online EMS training, they often require employees to complete online training while on duty and not to do it at home. So, if you take the class at home without permission, you can expect to get paid at either your regular hourly rate or a lower training rate, but this may be offset by whatever discipline you have earned for taking a class at home when you were told to take it during your shift.

Another consideration is whether the class is mandatory or just suggested. If you’re required to take a class to keep your job, the training is mandatory and the employer must pay you take the class.

If the class is necessary for a new position or merely recommended as a helpful class to have as part of your education, then it is not mandatory and the employer does not have to pay you take the class. Many employers offer free classes to employees, and if these are not mandatory, they do not have to pay you for your time.

There are some classes or training that employers are not required to pay you for, even though they seem mandatory: If the class is required in order to recertify a credential that was a prerequisite for your job, such as paramedic or EMT certification or a nursing license, then the employer is not required by law to pay you for the time that you are in that training session.

However, some employers decide to pay you for the time spent recertifying a credential. If it is your employer’s policy to pay you for such classes even though not required by law, then you will probably get paid, but the employer may be able to change that policy unilaterally and without notice.

Remember, if you need to stay certified to keep your job, your employer does not need to pay you to take the required continuing education classes for the certification. It is only when employers set up a mandatory class that is separate from your requirements of recertification that they’re required to pay you.

Those are the requirements under federal law, but each state’s law might be different. As a general rule, state laws may be more generous to employees.

About the author
Margaret Keavney, JD, MHA, is a partner with the New Jersey law firm of Keavney & Streger, providing counsel to EMS agencies on employment law issues, compliance, HIPAA, and regulatory issues. For more information, visit the NJEMSLaw website and connect with Keavney on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @keavneylaw.

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