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Q&A: Do We Have to Pay Employees for Their Time at a Required Training?

Question: Our employees are required to attend sexual harassment prevention training. Do we need to pay for their time at training?

Answer from Eric, SPHR, SHRM-SCP:

If an employer requires attendance at a training, then it generally must be paid. While this training may often be directed because of a state law, it is ultimately an employer-directed activity.

Department of Labor guidance is that trainings and work events can only be non-work time (unpaid under the Fair Labor Standards Act) if all four of the following criteria are met:

• The training occurs outside of the employee’s normal work hours;
• The training is completely voluntary (there will be no company-initiated consequences if the employee does not attend);
• The training is not specifically job-related (it may be tangentially related to their job, such as most continuing education, but cannot be specific to how they do their job on a day-to-day basis); and
• No work for the employer is performed during the training (e.g., reading or replying to email or requests).
Given these criteria, nearly all harassment prevention training will be paid time.

If possible, we recommend that you offer sexual harassment prevention training during regular working hours so that you can easily track and pay for the time. Providing the training during the workday also sends the message that you value the training and are serious about preventing harassment in the workplace.

Eric has extensive experience in HR, management, and training. He has held several senior HR positions, including as the HR & Operations Manager for an award-winning interactive marketing agency and as HR Director for a national law firm. Eric graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Economics from the University of Oregon with a minor in Business Administration.

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