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Federal Comp Time

Posted by Tamara

Employers nationwide are advised to be careful when dealing with “comp time,” or compensatory time off in place of overtime pay under federal law.

Under many conditions it is illegal. The federal Fair Labor Standards Act or FLSA prohibits private businesses from giving workers comp time instead of overtime.

Comp time is legal in some states when the employer is not covered by the FLSA overtime rules.

Some government employees, particularly law enforcement officers and firefighters, may be legally granted comp time in place of overtime pay.

A safe rule of thumb, however, is to consider comp time illegal in general industry.

Comp time is defined as time off “in a future payroll week” that is given to employees in lieu of overtime pay.

Time granted by employers in the same payroll week is not considered comp time. “Carlos,” for example, works 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. On Wednesday, he puts in a marathon day, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. He has just put in four more hours on Wednesday than he normally would. His employer directs him to take a flat four hours off on Thursday to avoid paying extra hours. Because Carlos has worked only 40 hours by the end of the week, he is not entitled to overtime. It is not officially comp time.

“Gina” is a police officer with the city force, and her employer is legally allowed to grant comp time “in a future payroll week.” This week she worked 45 hours, or 5 hours above her normal week. That means she would be entitled to 5 hours of overtime at 1.5 times her regular pay (“time-and-a-half”). Her employer instead gives her 7.5 hours off in a future payroll week convenient to both of them. In other words, she will work 32.5 hours in that future week. She would normally get overtime pay, so she must get 1.5 hours of comp time for every hour she worked over 40, which explains the 7.5 hours off.

Exempt employees (or those not entitled to overtime) sometimes get an hour for hour exchange of time off for hours worked over 40.




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