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Can employer recoup training expense in CA / Covid- 19 Employee Protocol agreement
May 13, 2020
Can employer recoup training expense in CA
            Is it legal to propose a written agreement with employees (field technicians) to be liable for full or partial costs of 'external' training classes paid for by the employer?
            Example I've seen with a few companies in our industry:
            Other companies in our business will poach trained techs with factory certs.    
            Manufacturers requires the distributors to send their technicians to the factory panel training to learn how to program these proprietary panels. The Manufacturer then issues a Technician Trained Certificate to the individual.
Raw cost of training can be hundreds of dollars and employees also get paid for the training time; often several days. The employer provides and absorb the expense of training and, if the employee leaves after the training, the employer fails to capitalize on the investment, or even recoup the cost expended.
             I've heard companies are having the employee sign an agreement before being sent to training that they will be at least partially responsible to pay back the training costs if they leave their employer in less than a year. 
            Are you aware of anything in CA labor that would prevent this from being used as a policy?
            California does require the employer to pay for hourly wage employee training costs, and pay the employee while training.  Couple that with California's prohibition of restrictive covenants in employment contracts which would prohibit an employee working for a competitor, and I think you have your answer.  But the training expense seems to apply with hourly employees.  However, salaried employees would no doubt expect to be paid for training time.
            Other states may not have these issues and you can require employees to reimburse the employer if they leave within a prescribed time period and you can also restrict them working for a competitor.
            If this is an issue and you want a definitive answer you can retain K&K's Employment Department attorneys.  Contact Alison Gallub at 516 747 6700 x 317 or email  
Covid- 19 Employee Protocol agreement
            I’ve reviewed K&K's Covid- 19 Employee Protocol agreement and dispersed them to our currently employed employees.  Two of them will not sign them.  One feels we are not practicing safety precautions, which we are.  The other feels that we sent him to a group home where a patient had covid.  I was unaware of this but did say, if you don’t feel safe, you can speak up and you don’t have to go into the building.
             Do you have responses for these?  What would you suggest?  
            Also when we rehire the rest of the staff can I tell them that it is required in order to work?
            Another though question.  The answer could be different depending on certain facts.  But, assuming that you have "at will" employees you are free to terminate their employment for any or no reason. A terminated employee would be entitled to unemployment if they meet those standards.  An employee who refuses to work even though the employer requires work, can probably establish their right to unemployment benefits, but they can still be fired.
You can require employees to sign an Employment Contract, an Employee Handbook, and the Covid Protocols, as a condition of employment or continued employment. 
            Under current circumstances it's probably wise for employers to cut some slack and accommodate employee concerns, provided they are reasonable.

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Ken Kirschenbaum,Esq
Kirschenbaum & Kirschenbaum PC
Attorneys at Law
200 Garden City Plaza
Garden City, NY 11530
516 747 6700 x 301