Labor and Employment

Does My Employer Have to Pay Me for Training?

By Lisa Guerin, ​J.D., Boalt Hall at the University of California at Berkeley
Your employer may have to pay for your time spent in training and the cost of the training program.

If you attend a training session for work, does your employer have to pay for your time or the cost of the course? The answers depend on the purpose of the training, when the training takes place, and whether it’s required for work. Your state’s laws, your employer's policies, and a union contract may also come into play.

Who Pays for Training Time?

The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) determines what activities count as work time, for which employees must be paid. Time spent on training and coursework counts as hours worked, for which employees are entitled to compensation, unless all of the following are true:

  • Attendance or participation is voluntary and not required for your job.
  • The training takes place outside of regular work hours.
  • The training is not job-related.
  • You do not perform any work during the training. (For example, an employee who uses a software training class to create a work presentation is entitled to be paid for that time.)

Whether certain training is related to your job depends on what your current position requires. For example, if your employer changed its system for tracking and scheduling employee time, and it requires all employees to attend a two-hour training on using the new system, employees are entitled to be paid for those two hours. On the other hand, if your employer requires all management-level employees to hold a degree from a four-year college, and you decide to attend classes in the evening to finish your coursework so you can be considered for promotion, you would not be entitled to payment for your time.

Who Pays for Training Courses and Materials?

The FLSA addresses only payment for the time spent in training; it does not address who has to pay for cost of the training program. (For more on the FLSA, see Wage & Hour FAQ.) If your employer pays for a trainer to come conduct sessions at the workplace, this won’t be an issue. But what if your employer requires you to attend on off-site training program? Who pays the admission fee and cost of the required materials?

The answer depends on state law and any applicable employment contracts. Some states, including California, require employers to pay for all work-related expenses. In these states, employers must pay any costs associated with mandatory training programs.

In other states, employers must pay for training-related costs only if required by their policies or a contract. If you are a union member, the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) may address the issue. If you have an employment contract, see whether it addresses mandatory training.

Your employee handbook may also discuss training. If, for example, the handbook or other written policies state that the employer will pay for required training programs, you are entitled to rely on that promise.

Questions for Your Attorney

  • Does my state require my employer to pay the cost of training programs?
  • If my employer refuses to pay for mandatory training, what should I do?
  • What is the time limit for filing a wage claim or lawsuit against my employer for training time and costs?

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