Time Spent for Employer-Mandated Counseling Compensable Under FLSA

January 18, 2006 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - The US 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed with a lower court that a 911 dispatcher for the City of Aurora, Illinois should be compensated for time spent attending and traveling to and from employer-mandated counseling.

According to the opinion, after becoming angry and upset when asked to stay for another shift, and abruptly leaving work, Kari Sehie was required by her employer to undergo a fitness for duty examination.   The physician who examined Sehie recommended she attend weekly psychotherapy examinations for six months as a condition of employment, and the City of Aurora adopted his recommendation.

The city required Sehie to meet with its therapist rather than her own.   Sehie attended 16 one-hour sessions before voluntarily resigning from work, and also spent two hours driving to and from each session.  

Sehie sued the city of Aurora, saying the time spent attending and traveling to and from these mandated sessions was compensable under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).   The US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois ruled in favor of Sehie.

The appellate court affirmed the lower court’s decision, saying that since “the purpose of the required counseling sessions was to enable Sehie to perform her job duties and relate to co-workers more effectively and at a higher skill level,” then the sessions were for the employer’s benefit.   The court also noted that the city was short on staff in telecommunications and said it was ‘odd’ that the city would not allow Sehie to see her own therapist, with whom she had a prior relationship, if it thought the sessions were for her benefit.

The opinion in Sehie v. City of Aurora is  here .