Human Resources

H.R. Questions: Under what circumstances are employers required to pay for travel?

Hey Compliance Warriors and HR Bosses!


Our members frequently ask questions about when employers are required to pay for time spent in meetings and training programs. Below is an explanation based on U.S. DOL  guidance.


This is a particularly difficult area for many employers to understand when training is provided or allowed, but not specifically required. The general rule is found in the wage and hour regulations at 29 C.F.R. 785.27, which states the following:


Attendance at lectures, meetings, training programs, and similar activities need not be counted as working time if the following four criteria are met:

attendance is outside of the employee’s regular working hours;
attendance is in fact voluntary;
the course, lecture, or meeting is not directly related to the employee’s job, and
the employee does not perform any productive work during such attendance.


Hence, if all four criteria are not met, the time so spent will be considered compensable.


29 C.F.R. 785.28 explains that attendance is not truly voluntary if it is required by the employer, or if the employee is led to believe that nonattendance would somehow adversely affect his employment, as would be the case with most meetings called by the employer. 29 C.F.R. 785.29 notes that “training is directly related to the employee’s job if it is designed to make the employee handle his job more effectively, as distinguished from training him for another job, or to a new or additional skill.”


It is permissible to have a wage agreement whereby employees are paid at a lower rate (at least minimum wage) for compensable training and meeting time and other types of non-productive work time, as noted in 29 C.F.R. 778.318(b). However, any such agreement should be clearly expressed in a written wage agreement signed by the employee, and the time so distinguished must be carefully and exactly recorded. Further, if such work results in overtime hours, the overtime pay must be calculated according to the weighted average method of computing overtime pay, as provided in 29 C.F.R. 778.115  Due to the complexity of the overtime calculation method necessary and the recordkeeping involved, any company attempting this should have the agreement prepared with the assistance of an attorney experienced in this area of the law.


Here is a recent article from the National Law Review that is very helpful. https://www.natlawreview.com/article/dol-s-new-opinion-letters-examine-rules-voluntary-training-time-travel-time


I hope this helps!


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Lisa Smith, SPHR, SHRM – SCP
Certified EEO Investigator (EEOC)
Lead Support and Content Chief – HelpDeskforHR.com
“You cannot be audit-proof, but you can Be Audit-Secure.”

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