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Comp Time for Exempt Workers: A Slippery Slope

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Q. Is it legal to give our full-time, salaried employees extra time off from work due to meetings and extra workload responsibilities? —C.E., West Virginia

A. Technically yes, but be very careful. Employees paid a salary are exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act as long as their jobs fall within one of the white-collar exemptions, which depends on their responsibilities, duties and authority. If someone is a bona fide exempt employee, giving him or her extra time off or extra compensation for extra work won't, by itself, violate the salary basis test. However, it may be used against the company to show that the employee's compensation is really tied to hours, not a predetermined fixed salary. And this could put the employee's exempt status at risk.

If you do give extra time off to exempt employees, make sure it's not an hour-for-hour swap. It's better, for example, to give them an extra day off per month, regardless of the amount of extra work that month.

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