Comp Days and the Problems they Create

We had a conference that required us to work weekends. I worked two weekends in a row, plus the week. So, I worked 19 days straight when it usually would be 15. (3 weeks, plus two weekends.) My boss said I could take four comp days, but they had to be within 30 days. 

Can she do this? Is this legal?

We’re missing one key bit of information about you: your status according to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). If you’re “salaried exempt,” the answer is very different than if you are “non-exempt.” I’ll explain the differences, and you can apply the answer to your situation. This answer also assumes you aren’t working in a government job. The government likes to exempt itself from the rules they make the rest of us follow!

Salaried exempt employees. 

If you are salaried exempt, you get the same paycheck every pay period–regardless of how many hours you’ve worked. If you’re salaried exempt, it doesn’t matter that you worked 19 days straight–your paychecks are identical.

Your boss can grant you comp days if she wishes, but she can also put parameters around when you use them. It’s perfectly legal for her to grant zero comp days and perfectly legal to grant four and require you to use them in 30 days.

There’s some logic to the comp days within 30 days–because she would want you to use them to recover from the intense work period. While you might want to save them to add to vacation days (which is understandable), she wants you to recover. Plus, she doesn’t want the liability sitting on her books.

You can always try to negotiate with her to take the days later, but if she won’t budge, take the four days asap!

Non-exempt employees

If you’re eligible for overtime pay–whether you’re paid by the hour or paid a salary–she can’t give you comp days in lieu of overtime.

That is, assuming you worked 8 hours a day for each of the 19 days and you are paid $20 an hour, then your paycheck would have to look like this:

Week 1:

Mon-Friday 8 hrs per day x 5 days x $20 per hour=$800

Sat-Sunday 8 hours per day x 5 days x $30 per hour (1.5x$20)=$480

Week 2:

Mon-Friday 8 hrs per day x 5 days x $20 per hour=$800

Sat-Sunday 8 hours per day x 5 days x $30 per hour (1.5x$20)=$480

Week 3:

Mon-Friday 8 hrs per day x 5 days x $20 per hour=$800

Total for 19 days: $3360

Your boss can absolutely grant you four days with pay off–or without pay–but you still get the overtime pay for every hour you worked. Overtime is calculated by the week. The only time comp days work for non-exempt people is when they are within the same work week.

In this case, comp time is extra vacation days, and again, while your boss can set the limits around when you can use it, you can ask for a variation.

But is this legal? Absolutely.

Speak to your boss, but keep in mind that after working 19 days straight, take the comp days ASAP to relax and recover.

Image by 5477687 from Pixabay

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7 thoughts on “Comp Days and the Problems they Create

  1. There’s what I’m guessing is a copy/paste error in the maths for both Saturday/Sunday equations.

    The equations state “Sat-Sunday 8 hours per day x 5 days x $30 per hour (1.5x$20)=$480″
    They SHOULD state”Sat-Sunday 8 hours per day x 2 days x $30 per hour (1.5x$20)=$480”

    The final result is correct at $480.

    1. And California is even stricter, with overtime at “over 8 and over 40,” so 9 hours in one day is an hour of overtime even if the weekly total is less than 40.

      But wait, there’s more!

      The seventh straight day in one pay period is automatically overtime, plus double time after 8 hours. And, IIRC, anything over 12 hours in one day is double time, too.

  2. I have often seen comp time treated as a special and undeserved favor that needs to be paid back even though it was earned with overtime in the first place. As my boss once said, “If you work an extra hour today you can take off an hour early tomorrow, as long as all your work for the day is all caught up and you make up that extra hour the next day.” You might do better to document your over-and-above service and use it to negotiate for a raise.

  3. One exception to the overtime rule.

    The government *can* give comp-time for all hours over 40 hours for non-exempt employees.

  4. I have found that the people who complain the most about being requested to take days off, especially after having worked a straight number of days in a row as described in the question, usually like to rack up time off so they can take a prolonged time off on their preference regardless of the needs of the job. The workplace sounds like the work schedule revolves around the work needed per project and sometimes it requires all hands on deck nonstop. That explains why the request was made for the comp time off to be taken within the next 30 days, because there may be another project with a similar time of work schedule. I am quite sure the person who sent in this question knew that about the job when they start but is trying to find a loophole to store their comp days.
    The advice given by EvilHRLady is sound, take the time off and recuperate, as I am quite sure this company has a good PTO system in place, and think like a team worker, instead of just a person who showed up at the job. As for the little differences in specific labor laws, that all depends on geographic location and the labor laws in place.

  5. In this case, you should simply leave. Jobs (and managers) are disposable these days. Simply pick up a fresh one and give two week’s notice.

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