Many employees are owed overtime by their employers under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) once they work more than 40 hours in a week. Illinois also has a separate wage and hour law that comes into effect at the same 40-hour mark. While many employers dutifully obey these laws and pay the qualifying employees time-and-a-half during overtime, sometimes, either intentionally or by mistake, employers subvert these laws. One of the most common ways that employers attempt to get around paying overtime is through the use of compensatory or "comp" time instead of overtime.
This practice involves employers allowing a worker to take paid hours off in the future based on the amount of overtime hours worked. Most commonly these hours off will be either equal to the amount of overtime, or an hour and a half off for each hour of overtime.
Who Is Entitled to Overtime?
The first step in determining whether an employer is violating wage and hour laws related to overtime is to find out if the law mandates overtime for the employee in question. The first place to look is in the FLSA, which governs overtime requirements on a federal level. The FLSA qualifies all hourly employees for overtime pay, unless they fall into a list of exemptions. The Department of Labor provides a full list of exempt employees. Some of the most commonly applicable exemptions are:
- - Sales employees working on commission;
- - Computer professionals making at least $23.67 an hour;
- - Drivers, loaders, and mechanics employed by motor carriers;
- - Salesmen, partsmen, and mechanics who work for automobile dealerships; and
- - Executive, administrative, and professional employees who are paid on a salaried basis.
Illinois’ wage and hour law also contains a list of exemptions, though these largely overlap with the FLSA’s list. For an employee to be exempt from overtime requirements, their occupation would need to be exempted from both the FLSA and the Illinois overtime law.
Is Comp Time Legal?
If a private sector employee falls under the ambit of overtime laws, then paying them with compensatory time instead of an overtime rate violates overtime laws. The purpose of those laws is to provide employees a premium for working overtime, which comp time circumvents. Importantly, this rationale does not apply to all rearrangements of schedules. The overtime laws focus on a weekly time scale, meaning that working more than eight hours in a day does not qualify a person for overtime, and an employer is allowed to shift time within the week to keep an employee below the 40 hour threshold. It is only the banking of paid time off in lieu of an overtime premium that violates the law.
If you believe you have been the victim of an overtime violation like comp time, reach out to a Barrington employment lawyer today. Our team handles cases in many northwest suburbs, including Schaumburg, Rolling Meadows, and Palatine.
About the Author: Attorney Ken Apicella is a founding partner of DGAA focusing in the areas of personal injury, employment, insurance coverage disputes, and civil litigation. Ken earned his J.D. from DePaul University College of Law in 1999. He has been named a SuperLawyers Rising Star and a Forty Illinois Attorneys Under Forty to Watch. Ken has written and lectured for the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education and regularly serves as a moderator at Northwest Suburban Bar Association's Continuing Legal Education seminars.