Comp time vs. Overtime

Since this is the first time I've posted here let me introduce myself. I am an HR Coordinator for a law firm in Norfolk, Virginia. Most of what I've learned has been on the job jump feet first!

With that being said, I'm having a difficult time understanding comp time vs. overtime. We have employees that will be working a Saturday. The Partners want to offer comp time in place of overtime hours. Is comp time considered time off with pay just not paying at the overtime rate? I'm sorry to sound so stupid, but for some reason I'm having a hard time digesting this concept.

Any help would be greatly appreciated!


  • 10 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
  • For exempt personnel (the attorneys in the firm, firm administrator, and perhaps a few others), there is no legal requirement to pay overtime compensation. If the firm wants to provide comp time for these professionals and executive or administrative personnel, it may do so, but such a practice would be unusual.

    For non-exempt personnel, they must receive overtime compensation (at one and one half times their regular rate) for all hours over 40 in a workweek. Compensatory time off in lieu of overtime compensation is not permitted.

    Note however, that if the non-exempt employees are given hours off during the same week (for example, they get off at noon Wednesday of the same workweek in which they will work a half day Saturday), then there is not necessarily an overtime compensation issue, as the person is still not working over 40 hours in a workweek.

    I know that there are HR professionals out there who just chuckle hearing that a law firm hasn't gotten outside legal advice on this issue!

    David E. Nagle
    Editor, Virginia Employment Law Letter
    (804) 343-4077

  • [font size="1" color="#FF0000"]LAST EDITED ON 04-10-04 AT 01:31AM (CST)[/font][br][br]DT: It's true that the Wage/Hour regs do not allow a private sector employer to opt for a comp time arrangement, even when/if the employee(s) wants to do that. I know it sounds silly, but it's the law. It probably would not matter one wit if this only occured one time, one Saturday, and the firm gave people some time off later and they were all comfortable with that (although it's still prohibited).

    But, the rub comes when, over the course of time, your firm has done this again and again, never paid overtime, always just granted comp time off to compensate for the hours, everyone seems perfectly happy with this arrangement, and BAM!, out of the blue you have a DOL investigator at your door with a complaint someone has filed for non-payment of overtime. Your firm will be writing checks to everybody in sight, current and former employees included. And fines could be imposed.

    If anyone at your firm is involved in labor law issues, they will surely reinforce this requirement for you.
  • DonD-Thank you for your reply. The reply before stated that if we allowed the ee's to go home 4 hours early b/c that is what they worked on Saturday that would be ok since there would not be an overtime issue...With that being said is it smart to assume that we cannot force someone to accept the "leaving early" the same week in place of the overtime?

    I just want to have it all together when I'm asked about this in the Partner's meeting. I really appreciate the help and apologize for not understanding/knowing this completely.
  • No, it isn't safe to make that assumption. The employer can control the hours in the workweek and may shift them at the employer's convenience. Example: I know that we have a training seminar coming up next Saturday. Four of my hourly paid employees must attend that session. To avoid overtime, I will want to have them NOT work at least four hours sometime between Monday and Saturday, so that their total hours will not exceed forty. So, I send out a memo advising these four that they are required to attend the session on Saturday and that to avoid getting into an overtime situation, Joe and John are to leave Tuesday and Wednesday at 3:00 instead of 5:00 and Mary and Jill are to come in Thursday and Friday at 10:00 instead of 8:00. This way you control the hours worked and still have your people at the required seminar and you have maintained everyone's 40 hour workweek. This example assumes that your seven day workweek starts on, say, Monday and ends on Sunday.
  • Thank you so much DonD! I got it-crystal clear! Have a great week!
  • As a public employer we give comp time in lieu of payment. An employee working over 40 hours in our defined workweek is given time and a half time off.
  • But as you all know, those of us in the public sector get to play by different rules. x;-)
  • Yep; every cop, game warden and probation officer I know has 9000 hours of comp time. Talk about a racket!
  • By the way, you're not stupid and there's no such thing as a stupid question.
  • DTaylor, welcome to the Forum. You will get a lot of helpful advice from a number of experts, but I offer a word of caution. Just in the above posts you saw examples of this varied experience. You saw viewpoints from the private firms versus the public organizations, you saw the question raised of exempt vs non-exempt employees, and you will see viewpoints from HR folks who operate under different State laws. The number of employees in your law firm also might affect the way you administer certain legal requirements, and eventually you may decide to have written HR policies unique to your own company. All of these factors come into play and, sorry to say, there are often many correct Forum answers, but not to your unique situation.

    Ultimately, most of us eventually have to fall back on the safest answer which is to consult with a legal mind that knows the law and what to do to keep your firm out of trouble, before you make a decision. Hopefully, your law firm has such people, but if not then you may need to recommend to your bosses that they think about retaining someone outside your firm who will have a neutral viewpoint.

    Good luck and come back again.
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