What is comp time for exempt employees?

Time is a scarce resource, and how we use our limited time can make a significant difference in our work-life balance. Employees occasionally require additional time to unwind or attend to personal matters, and in this context, you may have encountered the term ‘comp time,’ short for compensatory time. It’s a concept designed to provide employees with flexibility in managing their work hours, and it’s especially relevant to non-exempt workers. But what about exempt employees? Do they get comp time too?

In this blog, we will delve into the concept of comp time, its relevance to various employee classifications, and the eligibility criteria for receiving it.

Exempt and Non-Exempt Employees

Before diving into comp time, let’s distinguish between two essential employee classifications: exempt and non-exempt.

Exempt Employees:

Exempt employees are those who are exempt from the overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). They are typically salaried employees and are paid a fixed amount, regardless of the number of hours worked or how good or bad they have performed the duties of their roles. Exemption status is determined by job duties and salary level. For example, a marketing manager who is classified as exempt would receive the same salary whether they work 40 hours or 50 hours in a week.

Non-Exempt Employees:

Non-exempt employees are different. They can earn extra pay when they work more than 40 hours a week. Their pay depends on the hours they work, and sometimes it’s also based on how well they do their job. When they work overtime, they get “time-and-a-half” pay, which means, for example, if they usually earn $10 per hour, during overtime they get $15 for each extra hour they work.

For example, a cashier at a jewellery store is a non-exempt employee. If they work more than 40 hours a week, they’ll get paid extra for those additional hours.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)

The FLSA is a federal labor law that establishes minimum wage, overtime pay, and child labor standards for both the public and private sectors. It defines who is eligible for overtime pay and sets the criteria for classifying employees as exempt or non-exempt. The FLSA’s primary objective is to protect the rights of workers and ensure fair labor practices.

What is Comp Time

“Comp time,” short for “compensatory time,” refers to paid time off that an employer provides to an employee instead of overtime pay. It is typically given when an employee works more than the standard workweek or exceeds the maximum hours allowed under labor laws. 

Eligibility for Comp Time

According to the FLSA, comp time applies to non-exempt employees. When non-exempt employees work overtime hours, they have the option of receiving either overtime pay or compensatory time off instead of additional wages. This provides them with flexibility in managing their work schedules and personal time, a valuable benefit for those whose work demands can vary.

Why Exempt Employees Don’t Get Comp Time

Exempt employees, however, do not have the same comp time option. This is because they are paid a fixed salary, and their exemption status is based on their job responsibilities. Exempt employees are expected to complete their job duties regardless of the time it takes. Whether they work 35 or 45 hours a week, they receive the same salary. 

Alternatives for Exempt Employees

While exempt employees don’t receive comp time, many employers offer alternatives to promote work-life balance and employee satisfaction. Some common alternatives include flexible work schedules, remote work options, and paid time off. These options allow exempt employees to better manage their work hours and personal lives without the need for additional compensation.

Let’s say Jennifer is an exempt project manager at a marketing agency. Her company values work-life balance and offers her the option of compressed workweeks. With this alternative, Jennifer can choose to work four longer days (11 hours each) and have a three-day weekend every week. This arrangement gives her more time for personal activities and helps her better manage her work hours and personal life without needing additional compensation or comp time.


Comp time, or compensatory time, serves as a valuable tool for promoting work-life balance and flexibility among non-exempt employees. However, the eligibility for comp time is rooted in the Fair Labor Standards Act, which applies to non-exempt workers. Exempt employees, on the other hand, are not eligible for comp time due to their salaried and duty-driven compensation structure.

Nevertheless, many employers recognize the importance of work-life balance for all employees, including exempt ones, and offer alternative solutions. These alternatives may come in the form of flexible work schedules, remote work options, or additional paid time off, enabling exempt employees to better manage their professional and personal lives without the need for extra compensation or comp time. The key lies in creating a workplace that values the well-being of its employees and provides them with choices that suit their individual needs. In this way, both exempt and non-exempt employees can achieve a harmonious balance between work and life.

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