Paul Edwards — Seminar Attendance & Travel Pay: The Office Policy that 8 out of 10 Employers Get Wrong

This guest column is by Paul Edwards, CEO and Co-Founder of CEDR HR Solutions.  Paul is definitely a “go-to” guy when it comes to human resource questions in dental offices, and he has shown considerable interest in the area of embezzlement.
Seminar Attendance & Travel Pay:
The Office Policy that 8 out of 10 Employers Get Wrong 
I’m frequently asked “When is travel time or seminar attendance compensable?” For continuing education credits, seminars, or company trips, remember two rules:
1. The “Butt in the Chair” rule – employers must pay for ALL hours employees are attending mandatory trainings or meetings, regardless of the day of the week and their normal work hours.
2. The “Planes, Trains & Automobiles” rule – employers must pay for ALL hours employees are traveling to and from a seminar or meeting if it crosses across their normal work hours.
Why do we bring these rules up? Because in the last year, CEDR Solutions’ HR experts have evaluated more than 250 employee handbooks for practices across the United States. Of those, nearly 92% failed to get their seminar & travel pay policy correct.
Here is a common example:
“If a seminar falls on a normal workday you will be paid your regular pay for that day. If a seminar falls on a Saturday or Sunday, you will not be paid for this non-work day, but all expenses will be covered such as lunch and parking. You will not be required to attend a non-paid seminar.
Does the above sound familiar? If so, bad news: this policy is illegal. Employers must pay for all hours employees attend training or seminars for work, regardless of the day of the week. Plus, if this time puts the employee over forty hours in a week, overtime must be paid.
A good rule of thumb is that in order for time spent at a seminar toNOT be compensable,ALL of the following must be TRUE.
  1. Attendance must be outside of normal work hours.
    Note: this does not say normal work “days.”
  2. Attendance is voluntary.
    Note: The word “voluntary” will not stand up if an employee can show the employer led them to believe that the training was critical or related to their job.
  3. Event is not directly related to the job or does not benefit the employee.
  4. The employee performs NO productive work during this period.
The exception to these rules: if the employee is participating in continuing education in order to maintain his/her state licensure and would not be able to continue to work without it, you do not have to pay.
What about travel pay? If an employee’s travel time to or from a mandatory training or meeting cuts across their normal work hours, then those hours are ALSO compensable and subject to overtime. This is true regardless of the day of the week.
For example, if your normal business hours are 8 am to 5 pm, and the employee travels to an event leaving at 3 pm and arriving at 6 pm, the employee is entitled to two (2) hours of travel pay. This is true EVEN IF the travel is on Saturday, and EVEN IF your business is only open Monday through Friday.
CEDR HR Solutions (www.cedrsolutions.com) provides individually customized employee handbooks and HR solutions to dental offices of all sizes across the United States. Paul Edwards has over 20 years’ experience as a manager and owner, and specializes in helping dental offices solve employee issues. Paul is a featured writer for The Profitable Dentist magazine, a regular contributor to Dentaltown and AADOM, and speaks at employment education seminars, conferences, and CE courses across the country. He can be reached at paul@cedrsolutions.com or (866) 414-6056.