DoL: Wage Payback Can't Violate FLSA

July 20, 2005 ( - The US Department of Labor (DoL) ruled that the employer of a city police officer could not require reimbursement of wages paid during mandatory training if that would cause his wages to fall below minimums set by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

The  opinion letter was in response to a question by a city employer in Oklahoma about a police officer hired in May of 2000.   The officer attended training from June 4 to August 4 of that year and resigned to start employment with another city’s police department in October of 2000.   Oklahoma state law says that if the officer terminates employment within one year of being hired, the city can request reimbursement of wages paid during training from either the former employee or the new employing agency, according to the letter.

In its opinion, the DoL refers to the FLSA which says an employee must receive at least minimum wage and overtime pay for all hours worked, including hours during training, and pay is not considered received unless it is paid finally and unconditionally.   According to the letter, “The wage requirements of the FLSA will not be met where the employee “kicks back” directly or indirectly to the employer or to another person for the employers benefit the whole or part of wage delivered to the employee, if such payments bring the employee’s pay below the required minimum wage or overtime levels.”

The DoL stated that its opinion did not prevent the city employer from seeking reimbursement from the employee’s new employer under state law.