Does My Employer Have to Pay for Training?

If training is mandatory, then so is the pay.

By , J.D. · UC Berkeley School of Law


I'm a sales assistant at a large department store. Our company requires new associates to attend a training seminar on motivating customers to buy. It's like sales techniques and strategies mixed with pop psychology. I wouldn't mind doing it if it was during regular work hours, but it's on the weekend -- and it costs $350. Can they make me go? Can they make me pay for it?


Your question is a common one, and the answer is that your employer has to pay. In fact, your employer may have to pay twice: Once for your time, and once for the training.

If training is mandatory, then you have the right to be paid for your time. This is also true of meetings, lectures, and even company events that are supposed to be fun. Mandatory holiday party? There had better be a paycheck in your stocking.

An employee has to be paid for training time unless all of the following are true:

  • The program takes place outside of normal work hours.
  • Attendance is voluntary.
  • The program is not job-related.
  • The employee doesn't perform any other work at the same time.

For example, let's say your employer offered an evening seminar each month on practical issues that might interest employees, such as making a will, household budgeting, retirement planning, or investment strategies. The seminar has nothing to do with retail and is entirely voluntary; it's just an employee benefit that has proven popular. As long as the seminars are truly voluntary and no work is done, your employer wouldn't have to pay employees who chose to attend.

However, your training is mandatory and job-related. This means you have the right to be paid.

And what about that $350 entrance fee? Depending on your state's law, your employer might have to pay that, too. In California, for example, employers generally have to reimburse their employees for work-related expenses, including the cost of training. Contact your state's labor department to find out the rules in your state.

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