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QUESTION: This is the first year our office is taking five staff members to a state dental convention located an hour away. The staff has signed up for two Friday CE courses that will be done by 5 p.m. The dentist is paying for all of the courses, eight hours pay per employee, and our mileage and lunch. Some staff members want to get a hotel room and stay overnight. Since this is the first time we’re going as an office, is it the dentist's responsibility to pay for our hotel? I'm not sure if it’s a labor law issue or an office policy issue. The dentist is not staying overnight and is driving home after the last course.
ANSWER FROM REBECCA BOARTFIELD, HR specialist at Bent Ericksen & Associates:
Compensation for seminars and travel time as well as paying for expenses for continuing education events is a relatively complex issue. What's important to note is that this is not an employer choice or policy, it's a law. It's possible, depending on the situation, the employer would be required to pay for seminar time, travel time there and back, and some or all expenses. This can also change depending on the state that you're in. For example, California is more stringent than other states. I recommend becoming familiar with the rules that are applicable to you and your practice to ensure compliance.
Regardless of the above, the simple answer to your specific question is that voluntarily choosing to remain at the convention location for personal reasons when the employees could have otherwise traveled home that night is not an expense the employer would be required to pay in any circumstance.
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