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Can you comp your employees’ overtime?

On Behalf of | Nov 13, 2020 | Uncategorized

You need an employee to stay late a few times during the week, putting them over their scheduled 40 hours. Maybe they go eight hours over, for a full day’s worth of work.

As an employer, you know that means they need to get time and a half. To avoid it, you tell them to just skip a day the following week, or to come in late every day so that they eventually get that eight hours off. You’re telling them to work 48 hours one week and 32 hours the next week, in essence, evening out nicely at an average of 40 hours per week. Can you do this?

As logically as it seems to comp time, you cannot do so and it is illegal under Alaska’s wage and hour laws. You have to pay overtime. Comp time is not the same.

Why doesn’t it work this way? Basically, comp time isn’t as valuable. You’re giving the employee time off at their standard rate, rather than paying them time and a half for overtime. They’re “losing” wages in that sense, even though they still make their normal wage for 40 hours. The law instructs that they should be paid more.

In Alaska, it’s also important to point out that overtime is anything beyond eight hours in a single day, not just 40 hours in a single week. If an employee stays for an extra hour on Monday, you can’t tell them to just come in an hour late on Tuesday. They still earned time and a half for that extra hour. It’s the same principle as the above, just on a smaller scale.

Despite all of this, employers sometimes make the honest mistake of telling employees to take time off or come in late. They’re not trying to break the law or withhold earnings. It’s just an error in interpreting how the law works. This example shows why it’s so important to understand the intricacies of every law and why employers may need to look into their legal options when facing allegations that they broke a law.