Does My Employer Have to Pay Me for Meetings?
Are you required to attend meetings, seminars, or educational classes for your job? If you are a non-exempt employee, your employer needs to pay you for your time. Many of us think of our wages as compensation for the work we provide, but your effort is not the only resource your employer asks of you. Time is a commodity, and giving yours up to be at work or attend a meeting is something you should be compensated for.
Under federal law, your employer must compensate you for time spent in a meeting if:
- The meeting was during work hours
- The meeting was mandatory
- You attended the meeting in good faith (did not cause disruptions or try to derail the event)
Out-of-Town & Off-Hour Meetings
Your employer is required to compensate you for an event outside of working hours if there was any indication that your job would be in jeopardy if you did not attend. For instance, if your team was asked to attend an off-hours seminar, your boss cannot imply that your job or chances for promotion will be impacted if you don’t attend unless they compensate you.
Likewise, if your employer strongly encourages volunteer work, charity activity, or other extracurricular events, they cannot force you to attend without compensation. If there is an implication that your career will be impacted by your willingness to attend, then you need to speak with an attorney. What they’re doing may not be strictly illegal, but if there is a clear pattern of rewarding employees who attend events while overlooking those that don’t, that is a problem that needs to be addressed. Not everyone will have time to participate in extracurricular activities, and their careers should not suffer because of it.
It can be difficult to pursue a claim in these cases, but not impossible. Document any emails or papers that imply there will be consequences for not attending an event. If this is a consistent trend in your workplace, you may have grounds for wage theft even if the event is “voluntary.”
You may be independently interested in attending a training or educational course that will help your career. Your employer is not required to compensate you in these cases, even if they are the ones offering the course. So long as you are volunteering your time, you are using it the way you deem fit and are not giving it up in service of your employer.
Your Time Is Valuable – Don’t Give It Away for Nothing
Many people feel compelled to go to office events or activities because of the company culture. Even events that are meant to be fun can feel like a chore if there is an unspoken rule that attendance is mandatory.
Your employer is not entitled to your free time. If your employer is pressuring you to attend events or meetings, make sure they are paying you for your time. Participation in volunteer activities should be left up to your discretion – not a company mandate.