Can Salaried Employees Receive Comp Time?

Comp time, which is often referred to as compensatory time off, is paid time off given to salaried employees in place of overtime pay.

U.S. labor laws require that any extra hours worked over the standard forty-hour work schedule must be paid either as overtime or in comp time. Federal law also dictates employers need to ensure that comp time is comparable to what they would have paid an employee for overtime.

Failing to do so can result in heavy fines from the Department of Labor (DOL). For businesses that have flexible schedules, accrued comp time can be paid in a number of ways – a flat sum in form of a bonus, straight-time hourly rate, one-half times the regular rate of pay, and in PTO, just to name a few.

The FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act) permits non-exempt employees to receive hours of compensatory time; however, there are a few things you need to keep in mind to avoid serious legal violations. The FSLA has provisions for comp time for some public and private sector employees based on the state, even though the guidelines are different in each sector.

Furthermore, there are some differences in state laws and federal laws when it comes to comp time, so you’ll want to do your research to ensure you aren’t accidentally mishandling payment of your hourly employees each pay period. Employers need to familiarize themselves with these guidelines or seek the help of a professional.

In this post, we’re going to cover some of the most common questions about handling comp time (along with how it overlaps with overtime work) to help business owners better manage their salaried employees.

Note: If your issue is keeping track of overtime hours and comp time, our software Buddy Punch includes automatic overtime calculation for salaried employees. This is just one more reason over 10,000 businesses have chosen our software to manage their time tracking, employee scheduling, and payroll. Visit this page to read more about our software’s functions.

Who Qualifies For Compensatory Time?

Because non-exempt employees are usually protected by FLSA regulations and are required to be paid overtime pay for any extra time on the clock surpassing the typical 40-hour work week, they are not eligible to receive any form of comp pay. According to the FLSA’s overtime laws, exempt employees do not qualify for overtime pay; however, they are often awarded some form of comp time for excess number of hours worked at a private business.

In order for a salaried employee to qualify for comp time in place of overtime compensation, they must be non-exempt and work in the public sector. Comp time is commonly awarded in the public sector, and these are usually employees protected by unions. The majority of employees in the private sector do not offer comp time to exempt employees because they do not want their salaried employees to fall into the “hourly work” mindset. They would rather their employees focus on properly completing jobs and reaching goals, regardless of the amount of time it takes.

Public employers reserve the right to restrict comp time to only specific employees, positions, or schedules (i.e., holidays, weekends, emergency situations). However, the non-exempt employee must agree ahead of time to receiving comp time in lieu of overtime pay.

By law, public non-exempt employees are only allowed to accrue a maximum of 240 hours of unused comp time. The only exemption to this rule is if the employee performs “a public safety activity, an emergency response activity, or a seasonal activity.” These employees are allowed to accrue up to 480 hours of comp time. Some organizations set up comp time policies to offer PTO that’s equivalent to what they’d receive in overtime pay.

Employers are required to allow their employees to use their comp time “within a reasonable period” after requesting it, as long as the requested time off does not interrupt or affect the processes of a public agency. Employers are not permitted to force non-exempt employees to give up or exchange their overtime wages for something else.

Is Compensatory Time Offered to Employees in the Private Sector?

Comp time for non-exempt, salaried employees is not allowed in the private sector. However, the FLSA permits comp time in both the private and public sector for exempt employees. Non-exempt employees in the private sector (aka not government employees) must be paid for all overtime hours worked according to FLSA exempt status rules.

Can Comp Time Be Paid for Exempt Employees?

Although there are regulations regarding how to award comp time for non-exempt employees in the public sector, comp time for exempt employees can be awarded in any way the employer chooses. Since the FLSA does not require employers to offer “comp time,” employers are also able to require the employee to cash out their comp time after leaving employment or even institute a “use it or lose it” policy if they choose. Keep in mind, though, that laws vary from state to state, so consult a professional before making any official determinations in order to avoid inadvertently breaking a regulation.

How to Avoid the Confusion

In the public sector, it is recommended that private employers call “comp time” something else to avoid confusion for both the employee and employer. Many employers refer to this as flex time or bonus time. Once again, be sure that you have properly classified your exempt employees.

In short, salaried employees can receive comp time if they work for the public sector, are classified as non-exempt, and work beyond 40 hours per week.  If you are unsure of whether or not you should be paying your employee’s comp time or overtime pay, then it is best to consult a professional who is familiar with the FSLA policy for your state.

Using Software to Automatically Calculate Overtime Hours

Due to the potential legal issues with comp time overtime, in addition to every employees’ natural concern with keeping track of accurate hours, many employers turn to software to handle calculations for them. There are plenty of tools that help employers automatically and accurately ensure that every employees’ overtime is accounted for and can be paid as comp time. For one such example, look no further than our very own Buddy Punch.

With our Employee Overtime Calculations feature – regular, overtime, and double overtime is automatically calculated at the exact rates you set. You can choose from more than a dozen different overtime types to determine how its calculated, or can create your own custom overtime types. You can also assign these calculations on a per-employee basis.

If you ever want to check your records to see overtime accrual rates, you can use Buddy Punch’s easy-to-read reporting and see how much regular, overtime, or double overtime your team members have worked. Then you’ll know exactly how much comp time you might have to pay off (if your employees have agreed to receive comp time in lieu if pay for hours of overtime).

How You Handle Comp Time Matters

Remember – the Wage & Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor handles issues with overtime rates and comp time. Make sure you’re protected, and your employees time is accounted for. The last thing you want is to bring law enforcement down on your business.

Once you’ve understand how comp time works, it should be apparent why it’s so important to make sure your records are accurate. For some business owners, this means close collaboration between employees to ensure everyone is keeping accurate time records. For others, it means using a time tracking tool to streamline and automate keeping track of hours.

If you’re interested in the latter approach, our staffing & scheduling tool Buddy Punch comes with numerous automatic options that streamline the time calculation process for business owners and Human Resource departments. Click here to learn more about Buddy Punch’s features, or visit here to start a 14-day free trial.

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