Can they make me pay back the cost of certifications and drug testing?

I had started my employment in August and was given documentation to sign but it did not include a paper saying that if I was terminated or quit before a year that I was going to have to pay back costs of my C.P.R certification, fingerprinting, and drug test. They gave me that paper in October and the following day they notified me that my hours were going to be greatly reduced. I decided to leave due to finding another job and felt like there was a reason they had me sign that so late in my employment. I did not get paid for my time of training nor my time to get those certifications done. Can they legally do this and can they take that from my paycheck?

Rita Risser Chai replies:

Federal law considers training to be “hours worked” and you are entitled to be paid for training or obtaining certifications if they are required for the job. The issue of whether you have to pay back the costs is more complicated. If the CPR certification, fingerprinting and drug test are legally required (for example, drug tests are legally required for some drivers, CPR certification for some positions) then the employer cannot deduct those costs from your check. If the employer is requiring those because of their own policies, then it depends on two other issues. One is, it is illegal if as a result of them deducting those costs you received less than minimum wage for the hours you worked. The second issue is your state’s law. In California, for example, an employer has to give you notice on your first day of work that those costs will be deducted from your check. All in all, you should contact either the US Department of Labor or your state’s Fair Labor Board or both to find out your rights in this situation. Good luck.

Posted 12-06-2016

Information here is correct at the time it is posted. Case decisions cited here may be reversed. Please do not rely on this information without consulting an attorney first.


About the Author:

Rita M. Risser Chai is the founder of Fair Measures. An attorney in California for 20 years and now an attorney in Hawaii, she authored the Prentice Hall book, Stay Out of Court! The Manager’s Guide to Preventing Employee Lawsuits. She developed most of the curriculum used by Fair Measures, created the firm’s first website praised in HR Magazine, and wrote numerous articles on employment law including one on best practice harassment prevention training published in the magazine of the American Society for Training and Development (now ATD). She taught Law and Human Resources at the University of California, Santa Cruz, for eight years, and has presented four times at the annual conventions of the Hawaii Society of Human Resource Management.