Do we have to pay employees for orientation?

Most healthcare contract employees such as nurses receive paid orientation but hospitals are moving toward requiring them to do this online off the clock prior to reporting for their first day of work. Are there labor law or antitrust risks with this approach if it involves many hours of unpaid time? What if the worker is not aware of this until after they have signed a contract?

Posted 08-19-2014

Ann Kiernan replies:

Yes, you must pay for time spent in new hire orientation, whether in person or online. According to the Department of Labor Fact Sheet #22, time spent at lectures, meetings, training programs and similar activities need not be counted as working time only if four criteria are met: attendance is outside normal hours; it is voluntary; it is not job-related, and no other work is concurrently performed. Since the new-hire orientation is not voluntary and is certainly job-related, it should be paid time.

I don’t see any antitrust implications, unless a group of hospitals got together and decided that they would all require unpaid orientations. Workers whose pay rights are violated can contact the local Wage and Hour Division office or an employment law attorney.

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.