Category Archives: Human Resources

Continuing Education: to pay or not to pay?

Do you follow labor law rules for paying staff for travel to and attendance at seminars, lectures, or workshops?


The question that comes up most often in healthcare when discussing employee benefits and legal obligations is about Continuing Education.  It’s no wonder that there are questions about the subject because the language of the law can be often times misleading and hard to understand.

To begin with, there are 4 criteria that, if all 4 are met, the employer does not have to pay an employee for time spent in lectures, meetings and training seminars.

  1. The employee is going on their own initiative
  2. The training takes place outside of normal working hours—on a Saturday for instance
  3. The training is NOT directly related to the employees current job description
  4. The employee will not be performing any productive work during the course

ALL 4 of those criteria need to be met for the employer to be off the hook regarding obligation to pay.

ALSO, if the training is being taken for the purpose of maintaining licenses or certifications, such as dental hygienists or nurses, the employer IS NOT required to pay.

That means, doctors and employers, you will be paying for Continuing Education if even one of those criteria is not met.  And if attending the seminar will require the employee works more than the Federal or State Maximum regulations, you will have to pay overtime for non-exempt employees.

However, it may be appropriate for you to pay your employees attending Continuing Education courses a DIFERENT CAPACITY WORK RATE for dissimilar work.  This means you can pay your employees a separate straight-time rate of pay for dissimilar types of work during the same workweek.

  • That rate must meet or exceed the minimum wage requirements
  • Employees must agree in writing that any overtime pay will be at the special rate.

This will require that you keep meticulous records documenting the what’s, why’s and how’s.

It’s worth it, however.  Continuing Education is an important function of a well-run healthcare practice, and is advantageous to both employer and employee.   Therefore, give your employees opportunities for learning and self-improvement, and know your rights and obligations.

If you still have questions, and I know you will…comment on this blog and I’ll be happy to help you out!  You can also contact my good friends at Bent Ericksen & Associates who specialize in Employment Law Compliance and Human Resources Management.