California Employee Training: Should You Be Getting Paid for Your Time?

California Employee Training: Should You Be Getting Paid for Your Time?

If you’ve been an employee for long, the chances are that you may have run into a common onboarding scenario. You get a new job, but you’re not scheduled to start for several days or weeks. In the meantime, your new employer requires you to attend mandatory training sessions. 

Whether these sessions are online from your home or you have to physically go somewhere, you might be required to do them before starting your job.

The catch is that the employer may try to claim that you won’t get paid for this training because you’ve not officially started in your new job yet. While this practice is prevalent, it is also illegal.

Laws About Meetings and Training Time in California

In the state of California, if you’re required to attend a meeting or get specific training, you are supposed to be paid for that time. 

California labor law states that if an employee is under the direct control of their company, that employee is entitled to pay for their time — even if they are not performing any work duties.


  • A parking valet is an excellent example of this. When they’re at work, their employer is still required to pay them for those hours — even if they’re sitting around doing nothing because there are no cars to park.
  • A customer service representative working at home can fall under the same protections. If the CSR is an employee of the company, they may sit waiting for a phone call seven hours out of the day. And even though no customers called and no service was given, the employee is still legally eligible to be paid for those hours because they were under the direct control of their employer.

These same laws apply to mandatory training and meetings.

Mandatory Training

If the training is mandatory for your job, your employer is legally obligated to pay you for the time spent. If the training is done outside of your work hours, you may be eligible for overtime pay, as well.

In contrast, some employers offer extra training or coursework as a bonus or perk, to the job. When this is optional and completely voluntary, then the employee does not have to be paid for their time.

Training During Work Hours

Sometimes, an employer will want an employee to cross-train in a new area or learn a new skill, such as how to use a specific piece of software. They may ask the employee to learn these new skills during their normal work hours. They may also ask the employee to stay late to learn something new. 

Regardless of whether the training is related to the employee’s current position or not, the employer must pay for the time spent in training. If staying late causes the employee to go into overtime hours, those must be paid, as well, since the employer asked the employee to learn the new skills.

Does the Training Produce Something of Value?

If an employee takes training that produces a result for their employer, they must be paid for it. An employee may learn how to program a database, for instance, and while learning, they may create a new tool for use in their job. 

The employer benefits from that tool, thus the employee should be compensated for the time spent learning how to create it.

This type of unpaid wage violation happens frequently during job interviews. A prospective employer may ask the potential employee to create a marketing presentation as a way to show their skills.

If the employer later uses that material for the company, the company is required to pay the person who created it, whether they were ultimately hired on as an employee or not.

If you’ve faced employment responsibilities that required you to spend time in training or in meetings unpaid, a legal professional can help you to seek the money that you might be owed.