Can we pay a different hourly rate for training?

If employees are attending a mandatory training seminar, can you pay a different hourly rate than their normal rate? I have heard this in the past. This is for NJ.

Posted  07-07-2010

Ann Kiernan replies:

The federal Fair Labor Standards Act allows different hourly rates for different work, as long as the employer and employee agree on the rates before the work is done. See, e.g. Department of Labor FLSA Opinion letter 2006-10. Of course, time-and-a-half overtime must be paid if more than 40 hours are worked in a week. If the training is what puts the hours over 40, then the training rate can be used to figure overtime; otherwise, overtime is paid at the regular rate.

I could find no New Jersey case, statute, regulation, or opinion letter on point. New Jersey requires OT to be paid at 1.5 times the “regular hourly wage”. The regulation on overtime does say that “If an employee is remunerated solely on the basis of a single hourly rate, the hourly rate shall be his or her ‘regular hourly wage'”, which implies that an employee could have different rates for different work.

I am guessing that you want to pay less for training time than for work time. The larger question is: Even if doing so is legal, do you really want to send the message to your employees, that training is not worth as much as regular work?


Information here is correct at the time it is posted. Case decisions cited here may be reversed. Please do not rely on this information without consulting an attorney first.


About the Author:

Ann Kiernan has litigated claims of wrongful discharge and discrimination before state and federal courts and administrative matters before the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights, the National Labor Relations Board and the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, representing both employers and employees. Ms. Kiernan co-hosted The Employee Rights Forum, a weekly radio call-in show reaching up to a half-million listeners in the New York metropolitan area, and her articles on employment law have been published in many books and magazines. Both as a firm partner and as a director, Ms. Kiernan gained solid experience in management and human resources compliance. She has worked with Fair Measures since 1997.