Is an Employer Required to Pay for Training?

is an employer required to pay for training

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), employers in the United States are required to pay their non-exempt employees for all hours worked. But what does that mean? Does it include time spent in meetings, seminars, or training? 

The determination of whether the employer is required to pay for time an employee spends in seminars, training or meetings is based on four factors:

1. The employer requires the employee to attend the training;
2. The training is related to the performance of their duties;
3. The training is done during the employee’s normal working hours; and
4. The employee performs productive work during the training.

If any of these factors are present, the employee must be paid for the time spent in these activities.

Regular working hours

What is meant by “regular working hours?” Not all employees are 9-5 workers, so assuming that training that takes place outside of those hours does not need to be paid is a mistake. An employee’s “regular working hours” are determined by the hours or shift that employee usually works. An employee whose regular shift is from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. who attends a training session at 8 a.m. is considered to be attending that session during their regular working hours, and must be compensated.

Mandatory training

Even where training, lectures or other programs are attended outside of the employee’s regular working hours, they must be compensated if the employer requires the employee to attend the training as a condition of their employment or would impose a penalty for the employee’s failure to attend the training. In other words, if there would be a negative consequence to the employee for not attending the training, it would be considered mandatory according to the Department of Labor and must be compensated.

“Negative consequences” can include loss of pay, loss of an opportunity to be promoted, or a reduction in job duties. For example, if all new employees are required to attend an orientation session before receiving their first work assignment, to attend jobsite safety meetings to be permitted to work on a construction project, or to participate in sexual harassment training to receive their full paycheck, the time spent attending these sessions must be compensated.

Directly related to the employee’s duties

Whether a training session is considered directly related to an employee’s job duties may be the most difficult of the four factors to determine. First it is important to note that the requirement to compensate only applies if the training, lecture or seminar is related to the employee’s current job duties.

Generally, training is considered directly related to an employee’s job if the employee’s attendance at the training is for the purpose of helping the employee perform his or her job duties better or more efficiently. However, if the training is to help the employee to move to a new position, advance in the company beyond his or her current duties, or gain a new skill, it may not be considered directly related, and as a result, the employer may not be required to pay the employee.

If an employer-sponsored training program is similar to programs offered by third parties who are considered “bona fide institution of learning”, or if the program corresponds to requirements of a state licensing division, it may not be considered to be directly related to the employee’s duties. In other words, if the employee could obtain similar education elsewhere and the employer’s non-mandatory program is only one way the employee could get this training, the employer will not be required to compensate the employee for their attendance if none of the other factors are present.

Is the work done during the training productive work?

The Department of Labor defines “productive work” as any work that could benefit the employer or that the employer could use for business purposes. If the employee is attending a training session and performing any tasks that benefit the business (as opposed to simply learning how to perform those tasks), the employer would be required to compensate the employee.

For example, if an employee of a retail store is being trained on how to stock shelves, and during the training the employee is placing items for sale on the store’s shelves, the employee must be compensated for the training time.


It is only when none of the four factors above are present that an employer can avoid paying an employee for their time training, attending meetings or seminars. For example, if an employee chooses to attend classes outside of their working hours to learn a new skill that they need to obtain a promotion, the employer is not required to compensate the employee for that time.

If you have questions about compensation for training, meetings or seminars, quickly and easily find a business or employment lawyer using our site who can help.

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Posted - 08/15/2018