Friday, June 5, 2009

Reimbursement of Training Wages

The current issues of Cityscape, the magazine published by the Iowa League of Cities, has an excellent, anonymous article about police officer reimbursement of training expenses. I am currently working with several clients on this issue and thought this might be of assistance to others.

Many cities hire untrained persons as police officers with the agreement that the employee obtain the required training at the city's cost. The reimbursements typically include, the training fees, mileage, food, lodging and wages (i.e, travel time, study time and class time). In exchange, the employee agrees to reimburse the city for those expenses, if he/she fails to complete the training, or if he/she voluntarily resigns without having served for a minimum period of time.

Reimbursement is often on a sliding scale, with 100 percent within the first year, 75 percent between one and two years, etc. In a recent case, City of Humboldt vs. Geoff Miller, the officer challenged the validity of the agreement that he reimburse 100% of the wages as void under the minimum wage laws of the Fair Labor Standards Act. The minimum wage at the time was $5.15 per hour, the employee was receiving $12.64 per hour and he only ever spent half of any pay period in training. As such, the Court ruled that the reimbursement never reduced the officer's pay below the minimum wage and did not violate federal law.

Based on this case, which helped clarify existing law, both parties to a reimbursement agreement should make certain that the total amount of reimbursement (i.e., training fees, wages, mileage, food, lodging, etc.) for any given pay period is not less than the applicable minimum wage, which is currently $6.55 per hour but $7.25 per hour effective July 24, 2009.

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