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Commission-based staff: Paid for training time?

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in Compensation and Benefits,Human Resources

Q. We have medical providers at our clinic who are paid straight commission based on the number of patients treated and the treatment cost. Sometimes, they block time out of their schedules to attend training on laser techniques or continuing medical training for their licenses. I know that most employees must be paid for training time, but this is different. Do we have to pay them? — K.G., Texas

A. That’s a tricky question. Ordinarily, medical professionals would easily fall into the professional category as exempt employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Under that classification, they could be paid a set salary and be required to work as much as needed and they might also be able to leave work for training without deductions from their salaries.

If your medical providers are independent contractors, then the contract between the clinic and the provider should cover the details of continuing education and training. You could negotiate the arrangement with the assistance of counsel.

Although it seems unlikely, but not entirely clear from the facts, if the providers could qualify as commissioned salespersons employed in a retail or service business, they may also be exempt employees under the FLSA and would not be entitled to overtime for excess hours. Nor would they be entitled to payment for time off for training as their wages are purely commission.

Check with your attorney to determine where your medical providers belong. The specific facts of your situation will decide.

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