Ask the Expert featuring Bent Ericksen & Associates

Jan. 25, 2010
Ask the Expert for Tips & Tricks January 2010 enewsletter.

Question: Am I required to pay my employees their usual hourly wages when they attend a local dental convention during regular office hours?

Answer: Attendance at a dental convention falls under the continuing education regulations outlined by the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor. Those regulations state:

Attendance at continuing education events need not be counted as hours worked and the time need not be paid when all of the following four conditions are met.

 Attendance is outside regular working hours
 Attendance is voluntary (NOTE:Attendance is not voluntary when an employee is given to understand or led to believe that continuance of employment or present working conditions would be adversely affected by non attendance.)
 The training session or meeting is not directly related to the employee's current job (NOTE:The training is directly related to an employee's job if it enables the employee to handle the job more effectively, as distinguished from being trained for a different job or a new or additional skill not required for the present job
 The employee performs no productive work during the training.

Furthermore, if obtaining continuing education credits is part of maintaining licensure, as required by the state, the employer is relieved of any compensation responsibility for training taken by the employee to fulfill this condition of employment.

If payment is required because the conditions are not met, compensation must be paid for all hours worked, regardless of when those hours fall (either inside or outside of regular office hours).

Travel time to and from the event may also have to be paid under certain circumstances as this is also considered work time. Overtime is also applicable. All hours worked at the office and during the continuing education event and traveling (if applicable) count toward overtime for the week. Thus, in Arizona for example, if the total number of hours worked is over 40, overtime must be paid at time and one half.

You will need to compare your specific situation to these conditions in order to determine whether or not payment for attending a dental convention is required. In my experience, it will require payment unless attendance is specifically for the purpose of maintaining licensure.

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For more than 25 years, Bent Ericksen & Associates has been a leading authority in human resources and personnel issues, helping dentists successfully deal with the ever-changing and complex labor laws. To receive a complimentary copy of the company's quarterly newsletter or to learn more, contact them at (800) 679-2760 or Bent Ericksen.