In a recent Memorandum and Order, the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts District Court granted summary judgment to a group of defendant banks after applying a “precondition” test established by the First Circuit regarding overtime pay to employees for their participation in required training programs. The case, Miller et al v. Citizens’ Financial Group et al., stemmed from the plaintiff employees’ claims that the banks had failed to pay them overtime compensation for time spent outside of regular working hours to study for mandatory licensing exams, and that this failure constituted a violation of both the Fair Labor Standards Act and Massachusetts and Pennsylvania state law. The District Court analyzed the summary judgment motion under controlling First Circuit precedent as established in Ballou v. General Electric Co. and Bienkowski v. Northeastern University. In both cases, the plaintiffs claimed that they were not compensated for time spent on mandatory classwork and/or training in connection with their employment and, in both cases, the First Circuit upheld summary judgment rulings against the plaintiffs.
In Miller, the plaintiffs attempted to distinguish their case from Ballou and Bienkowski by arguing first that the prior First Circuit decisions only applied to trainee or apprentice employees. The District Court rejected this argument, noting that all three cases involved situations wherein the employees were hired on the expressly communicated condition that they must study and pass licensing exams in order to maintain their jobs. Next, the plaintiffs asked the District Court to consider whether the work they were performing during normal business hours for the bank was enhanced by the training they were receiving. The District Court wrote that it was constrained from considering this argument based on the test articulated in Ballou and Bienkowski, which is whether “the employee, at the time of study, was acting in a way that directly and immediately benefitted the employer.” Because the plaintiffs admitted (1) that they were limited from performing certain work tasks until after the training was completed and (2) that they could not use the information they learned in the training in their jobs until they obtained the required licenses, the District Court held that the plaintiffs could not meet the precondition test and granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment.