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Exempt employee working hours

Is a salaried employee considered an exempt employee? And if this employee has never signed any documentation labeling him an exempt employee or a document that says he may be required to work certain hours over the normal 40 hours, can he be obligated to work 55 hours a week?

Not every salaried employee is an exempt employee. A salaried employee can be either exempt or non-exempt, depending upon his or her primary duties. Search our archives for exempt or scroll down a few pages for complete coverage.

An employee need not sign anything to make the employee exempt. If the employee accepts a salaried position with duties that make him or her exempt from overtime, then no further permission is needed. An employer can require an exempt employee to work any number of hours without additional compensation — even 80 or 100 hours per week.

Yes, an exempt employee can be required to work 55 hours or more per week, every week. There is no such thing as a normal 40-hour week for exempt employees in the U.S. Many exempt employees must work 50, 60 or 70 (or more) hours per week. Again, if you search our archives for: overtime exempt, you should find more information.

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34 Responses to “Exempt employee working hours”

  1. cesar Says:

    We were hired as salaried employees. We are scheduled to start our work day at 9:00 am and we end our work day at 5:00 pm, a total of 8 hours per day. Depending on the number of projects and deadlines, we average 45 hours per week. In addition, we are required to travel increasing our work hours from 50 to 70 hours per week, plus the time we spend on board the car, train or plane not to mention the hours away from home. Our paycheck reads payment for 40 hours per week multiplied by our hourly rate. Today, we were told that our daily work schedule will start at 9:00 am and end at 7:00 pm, a total of 10 hours per day, plus the travel time. Does my employer have the right to dictate so many work hours to the salaried employees?

  2. Caitlin Says:

    Hi cesar! If you are genuinely an exempt employee, the employer can require you to work any number of hours, even 100 hours or more per week, without any additional pay. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  3. Diane Snyder-Bell Says:

    When exempt employees work over their standard 40 hours per week, is it allowable/appropriate for them to carry hours over to another week in order to take that amount of time off from work? i.e. an exempt employee works 55 hours, so the following week or a few weeks later they are out of work 15 hours and note on their time sheet “carried over from previous pay period”. This is not appropriate is it? Exempt employees are to work whatever amount it takes to get the job done — anytime off should come from their vacation, personal, or etc. earned time off — correct?

  4. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Diane! You are absolutely correct that this is not appropriate. There is no standard 40-hour work week for an exempt employee. The exempt employee can be required to work 50, 60 or even 100+ hours per week, every week. The exempt employee is not automatically entitled to any additional payment or time off when working more than 40 hours per week.

    It is up to you as the employer to set this standard. Like you, most employers require exempt employees to work *whatever it takes* to get the job done. An exempt employee who works 55 hours in one payroll week is expected to work 40 or more hours in the next payroll week.

    (Less than 10% of employers permit an exempt employee who works over 40 hours to take time off in a subsequent week. Even then, such *comp time* is only by mutual agreement, usually requested in advance.)

    You should make this expectation clear to your exempt employees. Then, you can discipline or terminate any exempt employee who does not follow this policy. And yes, when an exempt employee works only 25 hours in a payroll week, you can deduct 15 hours from her vacation or personal time off. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  5. Perry Says:

    Hi! Regarding the exempt employees, how much is the salary to be given to exempt employees, for example if the exempt employee is on an Executive Exemption? Is $11.00 or $12.00 per hour, 40 hours per week a lawful salary for exempt employees under Executive Exemption? With regards to the job, are employers allowed to have the exempt employee to work beyond their duties and responsibilities?

  6. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Perry! No, an exempt employee cannot be paid $11 per hour. First of all, paying an employee by the hour automatically makes him or her non-exempt. Second, under the federal FLSA, the employee must be paid a salary of at least $455 per week before taxes. Some states require that an exempt employee be paid more. Yes, an exempt employee can be required to complete other duties, in addition to his or her primary duties. It is the primary duties that determine whether or not the employee is exempt. For example, a restaurant manager is an exempt executive because he supervises more than 3 employees. He can also be required to bus tables, wash dishes and cook meals, in addition to supervising the employees, and still be exempt. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  7. E. Dianne Bradley Says:

    Thank you, your column has answered my question…

  8. Caitlin Says:

    You are very welcome, Dianne! ~ Caitlin

  9. SR Says:

    Need help with a scenario. An exempt employee (store manager) of a convenience store is asked to report each day they work and they are required to work a minimum of 5 days a week, or their pay is docked. Their paystub shows an hourly rate and hours are broken down. Is this employee truly an exempt employee?

  10. Caitlin Says:

    Hi SR! This employee may very well be exempt. An exempt employee can be required to work a specific number of days per week, or hours per week. It is normal business practice for employers to require that employees report the days they work, and most employers expect exempt employees to work a minimum of 5 to 6 days per week.
    An exempt employee who is not available for a day of work, and does no work at all that day, need not be paid for the day. This does not change the employees exempt status.
    If the employees pay was prorated when he worked a partial day, or missed hours of work, then he would not be an exempt employee. (There is an exception if the employee is taking unpaid time off under FMLA or ADA.)
    Many employees assume that exempt status means they can come and go as they please, but in fact this is not a requirement for exempt status. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  11. Lynn Says:

    Can the employer require that an exempt employee complete more work than can reasonably completed in a 40 hour work week on a consistant basis?

  12. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Lynn! The answer to your question is a resounding “yes.” There is no law that an exempt employee must be given only 40 hours per week of work. An employer can require that an exempt employee work 80 hours per week, 120 hours per week or more, without additional pay. The employer can just keep piling the work on. This may not be right, but it is legal. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  13. Sherry Says:

    Can an employer make a salaried exempt employee work the normal business hours even though they are in a sales position but think they can make their own hours but work at least 8 hours in a day? We have an employee who dictates that their hours will be 9 to 5 when the business is operating from 8:30 to 5:30.


  14. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Sherry! Yes, as an employer, you have the right to set minimum expectations of exempt employees under the U.S. Department of Labor FairPay regulations. This includes the number of hours worked, and the time of day worked.

    In your example, the exempt employee who works 9 to 5 instead of 8:30 to 5:30 can be disciplined or terminated for not meeting your expectations. However, as long as she continues to be employed, you still have to pay her full salary each day.

    This may be a simple miscommunication. Some employers would allow an exempt salesperson to set her own hours as long as she meets her sales goals. But most have specific hours that employees are expected to work. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  15. Stacey Says:

    If an exempt employee is taking a scheduled day off but during the day off is called upon – not required to come into the office but works either from home or at any other location, does thier “day off” still as a vacation day?

  16. hrlady Says:

    Hi Stacey,

    An exempt employee may be docked time for absences from work for vacations or sick time when they have an accrued leave available. For example, if you worked a half a day they may deduct vacation time for the half a day. However if you worked the other half of a day then you must be paid for the time worked.

    Thank you for reading the

  17. Tom Says:

    At the facility where I work as an exempt employee there are several exempt employees who are only required to work 8 or 9 hours in a day and others who are required to work 10 to 12 hours in a day. All of these positions are categorized as “resources” by HR.
    Is this normal? It seems to me that groups of positions categorized together should have the same basic requirements. So I guess the question is Can and employer require on salary employee to work 45 hours a week and require another in the same category 55 hours a week?

  18. hrlady Says:

    Hi Tom,
    The U.S. Department of Labor states that an exempt employee has virtually “no rights at all” under the FLSA overtime rules. All an exempt employee is entitled to under the FLSA is to receive the full amount of the base salary in any work period during which they perform any work (less permissible deductions). Nothing in the FLSA prohibits an employer from requiring exempt employees to “punch a clock” or work a particular schedule, or “make up” time lost due to absences. Nor does the FLSA limit the amount of work time an employer may require or expect from any exempt employee on any schedule”.
    Typically, and exempt employee may be required to work whatever hours are necessary to get the job done. Some exempt employee may only work 40 hours, others 50 hours or more.
    Thank you for reading the

  19. Donna Says:

    Can exempt salaried workers be required to clock in and out, have a set 9-6 schedule, and be required to take a full hour lunch? The hour lunch is not practical as most salaried employees at this workplace only take 30 mins or routinely work through lunch. If this is a requirement, a typical day would consist of the exempt employee clocking out, eating lunch while taking phone calls or working on the computer. The employer is also threatening to dock pay at the end of the week if hours are missed in one day, even if made up the following day. Or if the person failed to clock out for the hour lunch. Or if they only clock out for 30 minutes, and work until 7pm, they will be docked for the additional 30 mins. This seems to defeat the exempt status.

  20. hrlady Says:

    The exempt status is based on three tests; salary level, salary basis, and job duties. Exempt workers can be required to clock in/out, work set schedules, and take lunch breaks. However, an exempt employee’s pay cannot be reduced based on quantity or quality of work in a work week. Reducing an exempt employee’s pay for violating company policy, unless the employee is being placed on unpaid suspension, is not acceptable practice and could reverse the exemption of the employee since he/she is being treated as non-exempt.

  21. Melissa Says:

    We have an exempt employee that works 50+ hours a week. She typically works Monday thru Friday. She requested PTO on Tuesday, but actually worked 3.5 hours from home that day. She also visited the office on Sunday and worked an additional 5 hours. Again, we reflected the Tuesday as PTO, but she is now stating that she made up the time on Tuesday and Sunday and as an exempt employee should not be docked a PTO day. Is that right?

  22. hrlady Says:

    Hi Melissa,
    There is no federal law that requires paid time off. Thus, employers are within their rights to adopt PTO policies of their choosing, even for exempt employees. Exempt employees under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) must receive their full predetermined salary for any week during which work is performed. So, requiring an exempt employee to use PTO for any absence of any duration doesn’t violate the FLSA as long as the employee receives her full salary. Thus, if the employee requested PTO for Tuesday but ended up working a half day, you are permitted to require her to use a partial day of PTO. An employer would also be permitted to engage in a practice of allowing employees to “make up” hours within the same workweek to avoid an employee having to use PTO. This is somewhat uncommon but still completely at your discretion. Whichever you chose, it’s important to apply the policy uniformly and fairly to all applicable employees. HTH.

  23. renee Says:

    Can an exempt employee be docked for working under 36 hours and paid OT over 45 hours? Doesn’t that make them an hourly employee?

  24. hrlady Says:

    Hi Renee,
    Deductions from an exempt employee’s salary are permissible in limited circumstances including:
    • When an employee is absent from work for one or more full days for personal reasons other than sickness or disability;
    • For absences of one or more full days due to sickness or disability if the deduction is made in accordance with a bona fide plan, policy or practice of providing compensation for salary lost due to illness and the employee has exhausted such paid leave;
    • To offset amounts employees receive as jury or witness fees, or for temporary military duty pay;
    • For penalties imposed in good faith for infractions of safety rules of major significance;
    • For unpaid disciplinary suspensions of one or more full days imposed in good faith for workplace conduct rule infractions;
    • In the employee’s initial or terminal week of employment if the employee does not work the full week, or
    • For unpaid leave taken by the employee under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act.
    Any other deductions would violate the salary basis test of the FLSA.
    Employers are able to give additional compensation to exempt employees for working above and beyond regularly scheduled hours. Feel free to review our other posts regarding additional compensation for exempt employees.
    Consistently deducting or adding to an exempt employee’s salary for quantity of work performed will place the exempt status in jeopardy.

  25. Jo Ann Safdie Says:

    Is there any requirement to give an exempt employee time for eating lunch? I think for a nonexempt employee you must give them a half hour meal break for every 6 hours of work.

  26. hrlady Says:

    Hi Jo Ann, There is actually no federal law that requires employers to provide any employees with lunch breaks, regardless of their FLSA classification. Many states have enacted meal break laws. Though exempt employees are often excluded from such regulations, it really depends on the state law.

  27. Chris Says:

    If an exempt employee actually worked 41+ hours in a week and during that week took an additional hour to go to the dentist, are they required to be docked 1 hour of sick leave?

  28. hrlady Says:

    Hi Chris,
    Paid time off benefits, such as vacation or sick time, are a matter of agreement between the employer and employee. Thus, employers are permitted to require any employees, exempt or non-exempt, to use PTO to cover any time not worked, regardless if the employee worked beyond their normally scheduled hours in the workweek.

  29. Robin Ivey Says:

    If a salaried employee works 10 hours on a scheduled 8 hour day, can they take it upon themselves to just work 6 hours the following 8 hr scheduled day?

  30. hrlady Says:

    Hi Robin,
    It’s up to the employer to establish a policy or practice regarding exempt employee schedules. Some employers allow exempt employees to work flexible hours as long as their duties are accomplished while others require them to adhere to strict schedules.

  31. Shauna Says:


    We have several employees that are hourly that are working more than 100 hours in a pay period. Averaging 30-50 hours of OT a pay period. The company is pharmaceutical(manufacturing). Do we need to make these employees salaried? or can they remain hourly working these OT hours? What constitutes a person to being hourly?

  32. hrlady Says:

    Hi Shauna, Classifications are determined based on criteria set forth under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). We recently answered a similar question that hopefully can help you:

  33. Lori Says:


    If we have an exempt employee who takes vacation for an entire pay period (80 hours) but their PTO balance is 68. Do we exhaust all PTO or only that in which makes whole day increments? So pay them for 8 days of PTO and deduct 2 days from salary or pay them 8.5 days of PTO and deduct only 1.50 days of salary?

  34. hrlady Says:

    Hi Lori,
    PTO can be used in any increments but only full-day salary deductions are permitted. How you manage this situation is a matter of company practice as long as only full day salary deductions occur. It’s probably best practice and most common to exhaust all her PTO, 8.5 hours, and deduct one day of salary. Otherwise, unless there is a policy/practice in place of requiring employees to use full day PTO only then there may be some pushback and resentment from the employee for not being able to use her remaining .5 hours. Sorry for the delayed response!

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