Pure Barre made the instructors pay for their own training


We keep hearing about employers struggling to fill positions as the economy gradually reopens.

Only 266,000 positions were filled in April, far less than the million expected. In response, companies are stepping up their efforts to attract and hire workers, which includes raising wages.

So I’ll admit I was surprised to hear about a company in Southern California that charges applicants $1,800 for their own training.

Is it right? It hardly looks like it.

Is it legal? Keep reading.

Tatiana Sarasty took classes several years ago at the Brentwood branch of Pure Barre, a national chain of fitness centers that mix ballet moves with more traditional workouts.

The Brentwood resident enjoyed the sessions so much, she said, that she later trained as a barre instructor, but not with Pure Barre.

So Sarasty was intrigued when she received an email the other day from Pure Barre saying the Brentwood facility was looking for instructors.

“Now that things are opening up, I thought Pure Barre sounded like a great opportunity,” she told me. “I wanted to work there.”

She said so in her response to the company. This prompted a response from Kayla Allen, franchise owner of the Brentwood and Santa Monica Pure Barre venues.

The Santa Monica branch reopened in April. The Brentwood studio reopened this month.

In his email, Allen revealed that in order to be hired as a teacher, applicants must complete at least four days of training. This training costs the candidate $1,800, of which $550 will be reimbursed after “one active year of teaching”.

Additionally, the email clearly states that new hires should practice Pure Barre fitness techniques “approximately five hours a day for one month.” This practice will be done “at your own pace”.

Situations like this have happened before. Pizza chain Papa John’s agreed last year to pay $3.4 million to settle allegations that it failed to compensate California workers for mandatory training.

But Pure Barre charges job seekers high training fees seems particularly brazen.

Certainly, if your business offers a specialized service – whether it’s a fitness routine, hot yoga or otherwise – you want the service providers to be well versed in all aspects of the discipline.

But either an employer wants you or they don’t. Getting a job shouldn’t be a racket.

I contacted Allen, owner of the Brentwood and Santa Monica franchises. She did not answer.

I also contacted the Pure Barre head office in Irvine. The company claims to have more than 500 franchise studios in the United States and Canada, with nearly 600,000 customers.

A spokeswoman for Pure Barre, who wouldn’t let me use her name because the answer was ‘branded’, said the training fee was part of a company ‘certification program’ , which is not the same as an official certification.

“Pure Barre offers its own certification program since our method and instructions are so unique,” ​​the spokesperson said.

“Those wishing to teach at Pure Barre should complete our program to ensure that we continue to provide the safest and most effective technique to our members.”

Notwithstanding the company’s good intentions, I’ll say it again: an internal “certification program” is just a fancy way of saying “training.” It’s not like meeting the requirements for a state certification or license.

Also, every employment attorney I spoke with said California was clear on this issue: you can’t charge employees or job applicants for their own training.

“If it’s mandatory training, not only can you not charge for it, but you have to pay for it,” said Nasir Pasha, an employment law attorney who practices in California, Illinois. , New York and Texas.

What Pure Barre does “doesn’t seem legal under California law,” he told me.

I heard the same feeling over and over again. “It doesn’t seem legal,” said Leonard Sansanowicz, an employment law attorney in Los Angeles.

“I’ve heard of outrageous violations in my day,” said Carey James, an Oakland labor attorney, “but that takes the cake.”

Each attorney directed me to Section 450 of the California Labor Code.

It states, unambiguously, that “no employer, or agent or officer thereof, or any other person, shall coerce or compel any employee, or applicant for employment, to associate with his employer, or any other person , in the purchase of anything of value.”

It also clarifies that “compelling or coercing the purchase of anything of value includes, but is not limited to, instances where an employer demands payment of remuneration or consideration of any kind from an applicant for employment… for an employer to provide, accept or process an application for employment.

In short: you cannot charge employees or job applicants for their own training.

I sought the advice of the California Department of Industrial Relations.

Paola Laverde, spokesperson for the national employment agency, quoted a “subject matter expert” from the department as saying that “an employer who charges applicants for training violates section 450.”

It’s a misdemeanor under California law.

I can’t say if every Pure Barre franchise charges training fees. But I spoke with a woman who worked as a Pure Barre instructor in Potomac Falls, Virginia.

She said she encountered a $1,600 training fee when she applied for the gig in 2019, although in her case the studio waived half of the fee.

“It was a bit of sticker shock,” admitted Andrea Greb, 34, who now works as an aerospace engineer in Colorado. At Pure Barre, she said, she was paid $25 per class.

If nothing else, the takeaway here is that all California residents remember that they have rights under the law. And one of those rights is that you can’t be charged for your own training. Period.

Pure Barre may think that it can collect its training fees as company “certification” fees. But none of the lawyers I spoke with found that persuasive.

“This is the precise behavior that Section 450 aims to prevent,” Pasha said. “At the end of the day, the law is pretty clear and they haven’t explained why the law doesn’t apply.”

James, the Oakland attorney, called Pure Barre’s admission of charging a training fee “a class action attorney’s dream.”

Which could take things from dance bar to California bar. And I’m not talking about the “Cheers” genre.

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