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Do I have to Pay Employees for that?

Depending on the industry, there can be a lot of blurred lines as to what the employer payment obligations are. To help you have a better idea of what these rules and exemptions are, we have compiled several scenarios in which you may or may not have to pay your employees. Keep reading to learn more and don't forget to check your state laws to ensure you're within their guidelines.

Drug Testing 

Paid: If you think that one of your current employees may be using drugs, and you feel inclined to require a drug test mid-employment, it is required that you pay your employee for time spent driving to and from the test as well as time spent at the testing center. It doesn't matter if you ask them to complete the test after hours – it still must be paid!

Unpaid: If you require pre-employment drug testing, you are not obligated to pay this potential employee for the time they put into getting drug tested.


Paid: If an employee is being trained, they should be paid for the time they put into their professional development. 

Unpaid: The only time an employee doesn't have to be compensated for their training, is when all four of these criteria are met:

  • Training takes place outside of work hours
  • Training is voluntary
  • Training is not directly related to the employee's job
  • Training isn't aiding in productive work during session

Meeting three out of the four criteria isn't enough, all four points must be relevant to deny employees pay.


Unpaid: As an employer, you're not required to purchase your employee's uniform for them. They are responsible for the payment either by paying for the uniform or by taking a deduction in pay. However, it's required that this deduction in pay not push them under minimum wage and that they agree to the deduction.

Tools and Other Equipment

Paid: This one depends on the state, but some states are obligated to provide their employees with the proper tools and equipment. 

Unpaid: Once again, you will need to check on your state regulations for your employee tool purchase policy. If you don't pay for your employee's tools, you have to follow the same rules as with the uniforms. (I.e. price of tools, etc. can't push employee below the minimum wage limit.)

Safety Equipment

Paid: If safety equipment is required for the job, the employer must pay for the said equipment. Additionally, if the equipment must be put on or removed on-site, you are obligated to pay them for their time. 

Unpaid: If the employee has certain gear they can put on and take off at home, you are not required to pay them – even if they choose to change at work.

Break Time

Paid: According to the FLSA, breaks under 20 minutes must be paid. If you allow for a 15-minute break period, and your employee takes 30 minutes without permission, you are still required to pay the employee for 20 of the 30 minutes. However, if you want to limit this behavior you have the authority to take disciplinary measures for employees that exceed their allotted 15-minute break.


Paid: If your employee is working less than 24 hours and is permitted to sleep on duty, any sleep they acquire on-site should be paid. If they are on duty for more than 24 hours and attempt to sleep, but are excessively interrupted, they should also be paid for that time. 

Unpaid: If your employee works for over 24 hours, it's not necessary to pay them for sleep if they have a specified place for sleep and are able to get adequate sleep during that time. If you and your employee decide upon unpaid sleep hours, it's important to have a written agreement stating such.

Company Parties

Paid: If you require your employees to attend the party, and especially if the party takes place during work hours, it is required that you pay your employees for their time.

When Work Isn't Available 

Paid: If your power goes out and employees are waiting for management to decide to send employees home or not, the employees must be paid for the time they spend waiting for a decision or for the power to come back on. This applies to any scenario in which employees are unable to work while on-site.

Unpaid: On a federal level, you aren't required to pay your employees for a minimum time worked if they show up on-site and you don't have work available for them. However, depending on your state, there may be laws that require you to pay the employee for reporting to work even if there aren't any tasks to be completed.

Business Travel and Expenses

Paid: In many states, your employees should be compensated for their travel, lodging, and food expenses if they're participating in a business trip. If for some reason your state doesn't require compensation for business travel, you need to make sure their travel expenses don't cause them to dip below minimum wage. 

Once again, we highly recommend that you research the laws specific to your state to ensure that you are meeting the proper requirements.

Do you need an HR firm to help you navigate through all of the legalese? We would be happy to join forces with you to make sure you can run your business your way with the helping hand of a consultant who is knowledgeable in HR as well as Federal and State laws.
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