Can sick leave hours count toward overtime?

Q. Last week, one of our hourly employees was out sick on Monday, but she worked a total of 40 hours from Tuesday through Friday. She would like to use her sick leave from Monday and claim overtime for those Monday sick-day hours. Must I pay her overtime for her Monday hours? — Michael, Maryland

A. No, you don’t have to pay overtime for that time. The only hours counted toward overtime eligibility under the Fair Labor Standards Act (and, here, Maryland law) are those that the employee actually works. Paid leave does not count toward the 40-hour-a-week threshold to begin earning overtime pay under federal law or Mary­­land law.

If you actually elect to pay her the equivalent of an overtime rate for those hours (you can always pay someone more; just don’t call it overtime) you are going to be moving her average hourly rate up for purposes of calculating actual overtime earned in that pay period. Note: In a few other states, such as California, overtime is calculated on a daily basis, but that is the exception.