The simple answer is yes. If you require employees to attend a training program, you must compensate them for that time. For example, maybe you require all new employees to attend an orientation session. This time must be paid at the agreed upon rate.
While this may not sound fair, it has been ruled on by the courts. The Fair Labor Standards Actrequires employers to pay employees for hours they are "permitted to work." According to the Department of Labor, this includes
training programs, orientation, meetings, lectures and similar activities. The only time these activities are not counted as working time is if the following criteria are met:
Attendance is voluntary
Attendance is outside normal business hours
The activity is not job related
Other work related tasks are not performed at the same time
Think about it this way: while you are required to pay for employee training, your workers are obtaining valuable information that will allow them to perform better in the future. Look at it as an investment.
Since new-hire orientation is typically mandatory, held during normal business hours and is related to the person's position, you are required by law to pay the worker for this time.
If you have made mistakes in this area before, such as not paying employees for training, you need to change your approach. The Fair Labor Standards Act is clear of what is required of employers, and breaking the law could land your organization in hot water.