My recent hire didn’t work out. Do I still have to pay them for training?

cook in training
Take a look at how you're recruiting, screening and interviewing prospective employees. | Photo: Shutterstock


I just spent a week of payroll onboarding and training a new line cook, only to come to the conclusion that it will be way too heavy a lift to get him to the level that I need him. I had to let him go. Do I still need to pay him? Is there a way to avoid this situation?

– Chef


While it’s disappointing your cook didn’t work out, making a bad decision doesn’t get you out of paying for training a hire that will not be a good fit.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s wage and hour laws are clear with regard to paid training: “When your employees participate in required training, whether on site or online, that time must be recorded, and paid for. They also must be paid for any time spent in training while they shadow experienced employees, or do anything else related to their current jobs.”

As often happens in this column, be sure you address the core problem and not the symptom.

My advice is to focus on how you are recruiting, screening, interviewing and checking references of prospective employees. Take a close look at your interview process to make sure that you are as confident as possible that the person to whom you offer the position will be a good fit for the skills you need. While you can’t legally provide unpaid training, you can ask a prospective cook to do a tasting or demonstration of their skills as part of the interview process rather than taking them on their word.

You can also ask detailed questions about past positions such as volume, the dishes that came off their station and how much was scratch-cooked versus prepared to get a better sense of how transferable their experience is. You can ask those same detailed questions of their references.

Finally, there must have been some positive traits about that cook that made you make an offer. Even if he isn’t a good fit for that role, see if there’s somewhere else in your organization he could be an asset. You might appreciate it when you are short-staffed, which many operations seem to be these days.

More about interviewing cooks here.