Posted by Tamara
Comp time is short for compensatory time or paid time off given to an employee in a future payroll week in lieu of overtime pay. The legality of “comp time” depends on the type of employer. In many states, police officers can be granted comp time but it would be illegal for a private employer to grant comp time instead of paying overtime.
An employee may wonder: My friend Grace is a city police officer in Missouri and regularly works overtime. Instead of receiving overtime pay, though, she is granted comp time. What is “comp time” and is it legal?
According to the federal FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act), it is legal for some state and federal employees, particularly law enforcement personnel, to be granted comp time. In the situation illustrated above, Grace is a law enforcement officer, so receiving comp time instead of overtime pay is perfectly legal.
FLSA prohibits private businesses, however, from granting comp time in lieu of paying overtime. Private employers must pay employees who work more than 40 hours overtime pay at the rate of 1.5 times the usual hourly rate. For a private employer to use comp time instead of paying overtime is a violation of FLSA and illegal.
Note that though Grace receives comp time instead of overtime pay, she still receives the overtime rate. For each hour of overtime, she is entitled to 1.5 hours of comp time. If she worked 45 hours in one week, she would receive 40 hours of pay and 7.5 hours of comp time for the 5 hours of overtime. When she took that comp time, she would work 32.5 hours and be paid for 40–the hours worked plus the 7.5 hours of comp time.
A Missouri employer can grant time off in the same payroll week, but it is not comp time. Instead it is a way for employers to control overtime expenses. For example, Carl the security officer normally works 40 hours a week, but puts in 5 extra hours on a Thursday. His employer tells him to leave 5 hours early on Friday to compensate. The result is Carl works and receives pay for his normal 40 hours in that week, and the employer avoids paying overtime.
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