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The Legal Toolbox #103: Do I Have To Pay For Training?

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Question: I have a question concerning pay for training. I’m wondering if we have to pay employees for training if we make it voluntary. Also if an employee decides not to come to training because it’s not mandatory, can I not pay my employees spiffs (sales program incentive funds) or bonuses because they do not come to the training classes?

Answer: If attendance at training is truly voluntary, meaning there are no sanctions for refusing to attend, then it need not be paid. A discretionary bonus or spiff program can take into account all sorts of criteria including whether an employee has successfully completed training. Of course, the program should spell out that training is required in order to earn the bonus or spiff, along with any other goals which need to be achieved.


This response is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion, nor is this column a substitute for formal legal assistance. For help with particular legal needs, members are invited to consult with Brooke Duncan III of Adams and Reese LLP. Mr. Duncan can be reached at
504-585-0220 or by email at


However, if the training is required, the employer must pay for the training and time spent taking the training. Whether a different rate of pay can be made for training versus normal work is entirely a matter of state law, and would need to be addressed by a local counsel if you have any questions regarding the rate of pay (but it may never drop below the state established minimum wage). It also depends on whether the training is conducted outside of normal work hours (and most states say that if it is, a different rate of pay may be applied.)

Attendance at employee meetings and employer-sponsored training programs is not deemed voluntary if required by the employer or if the employee is led to believe that his/her non-attendance would adversely affect his or her current working conditions or continued employment. Training is directly related to the employee’s job if it aids them in performing the present job more effectively, as distinguished from training for another labor skill.

Training is not considered directly related to an employee’s job if the intention of such training is to prepare them for advancement to a higher skill. (So, in sum here, if an employee attends training on his or her own, outside of normal working hours, and the training is unrelated to his or her current job but may also be in betterment of that job, it is voluntary and does not have to be paid for by the employer.)

Brooke Duncan

Posted In: Legal

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