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No pain, no gain: Gym can force teacher to pay for training

DEAR CARRIE: My daughter works for a gym that is revamping one of the classes she teaches. Now, in order to teach the class she has to take a certification course that costs $200. The gym is threatening to take the new class away from her if she doesn’t obtain the certification. Mind you, the gym is not paying for the certification. And she can’t afford it. She earns just $25 per class. She would have to teach eight classes to make up the cost of the certification. By that time the gym would have probably moved on to the next new thing. Shouldn’t the gym pay for her to learn the new program? — Who Pays?

DEAR WHO PAYS: It depends. An employer must generally pay for any training it requires its employees to have to perform their jobs, said Richard Kass, a partner at Bond, Schoeneck & King in Manhattan.

“If the certification is provided by the gym itself, and is not a credential that would be recognized by other employers, then it would probably be considered to be mere training, which the gym should provide to its employees at no cost,” Kass said.

On the other hand, he said, if an outside vendor has a copyright over a particular type of gym class, and the vendor does not permit gyms to teach those classes unless the instructors are certified by the vendor, then the certification would probably be considered a qualification for the job, Kass said.

In that case, “the gym would be permitted to fire the reader’s daughter, and insist that she obtains the outside certification before it hires her again,” Kass said. “The same would hold if the certification is required by a government agency.”

So the gym can insist that its hires have minimal qualifications for the job.

“If the certification is an outside credential that is a legitimate qualification for the job,” he said, “then the reader’s daughter should just remember: no pain, no gain.”

DEAR CARRIE: Do labor laws allow a restaurant supervisor to assign you to work a holiday shift that isn’t your regular shift? Shouldn’t the staff be chosen by least seniority? — Holiday Shift

DEAR HOLIDAY: When it comes to scheduling, employers have a lot of leeway if their employees aren’t covered by a union contract. So the company can decide when someone works. The company cannot discriminate by making all women work holidays or force its older workers to pull a holiday shift while its young workers get the day off. And your employer may have to accommodate someone who refuses to work on a holiday for religious reasons. But short of that, your employer can determine when you work.

To add insult to injury, the restaurant doesn’t have to pay you premium pay for working on a holiday unless it promised to do so or if a contract calls for it. But if you are hourly, it has to pay you time and a half when you work more than 40 hours a week.

DEAR READERS: Thanks for another year of outstanding workplace questions. Some of the highlights included: Confronting a bully boss, navigating the job market as an older worker, dealing with a freezing workplace, determining whether a worker should be paid when foul weather prompts a closing, and ascertaining whether it was legal for a supervisor to take points off an employee’s evaluation because he didn’t like the guy’s scruffy beard. Happy holidays and keep the questions coming in 2016!

Go to for more on labor laws and holiday pay.

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