Can my employer legally prevent me from participating in vendor trainingas well asfrom receiving incentives off the clock?

UPDATED: Jul 19, 2010

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Can my employer legally prevent me from participating in vendor trainingas well asfrom receiving incentives off the clock?

For example a vendor offers online training for those of us in retail sales and by learning of their products we earn points which we can redeem for prizes or discounts as well as drawings. My employer, a retail office chain, earlier in the year changed corporate policy to prevent us from earning anysuch  incentives. Participation is done off the clock at home. Is this legal for them to prevent us from such incentives? Been a participant in vendor training for 5 years prior to this.

Asked on July 19, 2010 under Employment Labor Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 12 years ago | Contributor

Unless you have a contract or employment agreement to the contrary, the probably yes--the employer can prevent you from doing this. Without a contract or agreement, you are an "employee at will." As the term implies, employees at will are employed at the will--or whim, if you prefer--of their employer, and the employer has tremendous discretion in setting employment terms and conditions. An employer could make it a term of condition that employees do not participate  in vendor training and/or receive incentives such as those you describe. If an employee violates this policy, the employer could demote, discipline, or terminate him or her.

(Btw, it's not an unreasonable policy: the employer has a legitimate concern that the awarding of prizes, incentives, etc. will affect your judgment and independence, and cause you to be more favorably disposed to this vendor than you ought. I've seen policies like this before.)

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