Most healthcare contract employees such as nurses receive paid orientation but hospitals are moving toward requiring them to do this online off the clock prior to reporting for their first day of work. Are there labor law or antitrust risks with this approach if it involves many hours of unpaid time? What if the worker is not aware of this until after they have signed a contract?

Posted 08-19-2014

Ann Kiernan replies:

Yes, you must pay for time spent in new hire orientation, whether in person or online. According to the Department of Labor Fact Sheet #22, time spent at lectures, meetings, training programs and similar activities need not be counted as working time only if four criteria are met: attendance is outside normal hours; it is voluntary; it is not job-related, and no other work is concurrently performed. Since the new-hire orientation is not voluntary and is certainly job-related, it should be paid time.

I don’t see any antitrust implications, unless a group of hospitals got together and decided that they would all require unpaid orientations. Workers whose pay rights are violated can contact the local Wage and Hour Division office or an employment law attorney.

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