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South Carolina Exempt Employee Comp Time

Posted by Tamara

 A South Carolina employee asks, “I worked 50 hours this week, but didn’t get paid overtime or offered comp time. When I asked why, my supervisor said it is because I’m an exempt employee. Is that legal?”

First, overtime pay and comp time are two separate issues. Because the state has no minimum wage, most employees are covered under the federal FLSA. It is illegal for private South Carolina employers to grant comp time in lieu of overtime pay to non-exempt employees, under federal law. All non-exempt employees who work more than 40 hours in one payroll week must be paid overtime.

For exempt employees, however, an employer may grant comp time to be used in another payroll week to salaried employees who work more than 40 hours. There is no law requiring them to do so.

With regards to overtime pay, the term exempt means ineligible for overtime pay. An exempt employee can work 40 hours or 80 hours in one week and still receive the same pay. In fact, employers can require exempt employees to work more than 40 hours per week, and have the legal right to terminate any worker who doesn’t comply.

There is another side to that coin, though. If an exempt employee works less than 40 hours a week, he or she still receives the same salary.

Just being salaried does not automatically mean exempt, the classification depends on the employee’s primary duties. The relevant federal law is the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which classifies exempt employees into five classes: Executives, Outside Salespeople, Professionals, Administrators and Computer Pros.

To be classified as exempt, an employee must earn a salary of at least $455 per week. Any time an exempt employee’s earnings drop below that amount; he or she is automatically classified as non-exempt and entitled to overtime pay.

FLSA mandates, too, that exempt employees earn the same salary every week, even when he or she works less than 40 hours a week. An exempt employee, who is able and willing to work a full week, must be paid for that week, even if the employer doesn’t have work available.


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