With few exceptions such as child labor, the Fair Labor Standards Act does not limit the number of hours an employer may schedule employees to work. This goes for hourly and salaried workers. The latter falls into one of two groups: nonexempt or exempt. Salaried nonexempt workers are paid according to hours worked and salaried exempt employees are not. An employer can require that both groups work a specific number of hours.
Salaried exempt employees are usually executive, administrative and professional workers who do not have to be paid overtime when they work more than 40 hours per week. An employer can pay them for extra work hours in the form of a bonus, paid time off, straight-time hourly pay or at time and a half. Regardless of hours worked, these employees must receive their full salary of no less than $455 per week, as of 2013, unless a permissible deduction applies under the FLSA. An employer can schedule them to work set hours, such as Mondays through Fridays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., plus any extra hours needed to get the job done properly. An employer can also record and track their hours worked via a timekeeping system.
A salaried nonexempt employee does not meet the requirements for exempt status under the FLSA and must receive overtime pay for work hours over 40 for the week. In this case, salary is contingent upon the employee working a set number of hours for the week or pay period. For example, a weekly salary of $500 might cover 35 or 40 hours per week. If the employee fails to work the required hours, her employer would adjust her salary according to the hours she worked.
Employers should avoid treating salaried exempt employees like hourly employees, which generally results in a loss of the exemption. Tracking a salaried exempt employee’s work hours should be for reasons unrelated to pay, such as to monitor performance. The hours should be tied to job duties rather than strictly connected to starting and ending work times. Frequently adjusting the base salary to match work hours causes the salary to fluctuate often, which would likely cause a loss of the exemption. If the exemption is lost, the employee becomes nonexempt and qualifies for overtime.
Like the FLSA, many states do not limit the number of hours employers may generally schedule hourly and salaried employees to work. The state may have an exception that applies to specialized industries such as manufacturing or mill establishments. State laws vary, so consult the state labor department to determine the rules in your state. Some states require employers give employees short breaks and a meal period throughout the workday.
To prevent exempt workers developing hard feelings and reduced morale, employers should use conscientiousness and encourage open communication when scheduling exempt employees’ hours. Even if state law does not require breaks, employers should give them at least to full-time workers.