Frequently Asked Questions (and Answers) about Managing Overtime

  1. Why are we supposed to avoid overtime when there is so much work we need to get done in order to serve our students and keep the University running smoothly?
  2. I’m a great employee. I show up to work every day, on time and I work my full day. I truly work hard to perform quality work and take care of my responsibilities. I make contributions back to Averett through payroll deduction and encourage the young people I know to consider coming to Averett for college. I love Averett. In the past, I do what I need to do in order to get the work done. Sometimes I stay late, or work at home on a weekend. I have never let Averett down. Why after years of loyal service are you putting me in this position and telling me I can no longer work when I need to?
  3. We have events that are scheduled for weekends or evening and we need to work in order to have those events at times when students (and sometimes family members) are able to attend. How are we supposed to be able to staff these events without overtime?
  4. We have a busy department and often get phone calls that interrupt our paperwork. Some days go according to plan, but other days get downright crazy and we end up working extra hours just to get things processed for the students. As manager, I can’t always tell in advance that extra time is going to be needed, neither can my employees. What do we do?
  5. So much of our work is time-based where we absolutely must have it complete in order to comply with certain federal or state deadlines, or to get students in class. Often to do what we need done, we know we are going to have to work extra hours to everything processed in time. There is just no way that I can do it without overtime.
  6. Realistically, I work in a small department and making me nonexempt and expecting me to get all my work done, well and on time, without ever working overtime is not reasonable. I’ve been working here for several years and I work more than the 35 scheduled hours almost every week and often as much as 45 hours a week. I understand what you say about talking with my supervisor and finding solutions, but in reality he just tells me to get it done and no overtime is approved. If I don’t get it done, I’ll get a bad review and risk being fired. I’m going to do what I need to do to get the work done and I’m going to report the overtime I work to do it. You have to pay me whether my overtime is approved or not, so I’m just going to put it down and get paid what I’m owed for doing my job.
  7. Okay, what if I do the work but choose not to report any of the overtime. I just don’t tell my supervisor I worked at home. That way the work gets done, I don’t have to worry about a bad review, and it won’t affect Averett’s budget. You won’t even know.
  8. What disciplinary action will be taken against employees and their supervisors who violates the overtime policy?
  9. Wait a minute! I’m a supervisor and I deny overtime approval for a nonexempt employee and arrange for another, exempt, staff member to assist with the work so that the project can be done without overtime expense. Later, I see that the nonexempt employee has reported (unapproved) overtime on the timesheet. What am I supposed to do? Why am I potentially facing disciplinary actions when I followed policy?
  10. There is no way I can get all the work done in 40 hours a week during our busy time at the start of a semester. My supervisor says there is no help available, I just have to find a way. There is no way that I can get everything done and I feel as though I’m left holding the bag without support. What can I do?

OQ1: Why are we supposed to avoid overtime when there is so much work we need to get done in order to serve our students and keep the University running smoothly?

OA1: In one word, ‘budget.’ Like so many other private colleges and universities our size, we have limited funds available for our operating budget. Many of our costs are inflexible and are absolutely essential (utilities, internet, rent, salaries). The bottom line is that after reaching a balanced budget for this fiscal year, there just is no funding left to cover overtime. So, we are calling upon our managers and supervisors to use a number of management tools to manage workload and workflow to avoid, or at least minimize, overtime costs.

OQ2:   I’m a great employee. I show up to work every day, on time and I work my full day. I truly work hard to perform quality work and take care of my responsibilities. I make contributions back to Averett through payroll deduction and encourage the young people I know to consider coming to Averett for college. I love Averett. In the past, I do what I need to do in order to get the work done. Sometimes I stay late, or work at home on a weekend. I have never let Averett down. Why after years of loyal service are you putting me in this position and telling me I can no longer work when I need to?

OA2: Clearly you are a great employee. We are blessed to have many great employees at Averett who care deeply about doing the work well and supporting and encouraging our students. We have set policies over the year to honor and respect employees like you. But we are subject to law and regulation from outside the University and must take steps to follow the rules regardless of whether we agree or like them. The U.S. Department of Labor has made some rules changes that directly affect how we work. If we had a larger budget, our policy on overtime may not be so strict; but our budget is limited. The requirements and restrictions we put into place are not a reflection of you or your contributions; they are a reflection of our overall need and ability to meet the legal standards imposed on us.

At the same time, we are doing what we can to maintain our collegial community. Please don’t let rule changes beyond our control affect your relationship with Averett.

OQ3: We have events that are scheduled for weekends or evening and we need to work in order to have those events at times when students (and sometimes family members) are able to attend. How are we supposed to be able to staff these events without overtime?

OA3: There are a number of options available to cover these types of weekend or evening activities.

First, how many hours of work do you expect to be needed for these activities. Since we are paid for 40 hours, but scheduled for only 35 hours, there are five hours a week available without incurring additional financial liability.

Second, if the time needed is more than the five hours, can you flex the employee’s schedule during the week to provide the time for the event? For example, if the event will require 7 hours of work time on Saturday, and five of those hours are covered by the difference between 35 and 40 hours, leaving only two hours to be covered. Flex the employee’s schedule earlier in the week so that the employee reports to work 2 hours later than usual (or leaves 2 hours earlier than usual) in the days preceding the event. Alternatively, give the employee the day off on Monday before the event, have the employee work Tuesday through Saturday that week.

Third, do you have exempt employees on your team who can assist or help cover some of the time needed? There is no cap on the hours an exempt employee can work in one week, so if you or another exempt employee can work at least part of the time on Saturday, you may be able to reduce the workload on the nonexempt employee to below the 40-hour overtime threshold.

OQ4: We have a busy department and often get phone calls that interrupt our paperwork. Some days go according to plan, but other days get downright crazy and we end up working extra hours just to get things processed for the students. As manager, I can’t always tell in advance that extra time is going to be needed, neither can my employees. What do we do?

OA4: The reality is that as supervisor, Averett has placed its trust in you to get the work done with your team. Look ahead, if you know there are certain times that your department workload spikes, start working through the scheduling in advance. If you know that there are projects you are being asked to do, think ahead of what resources the projects need and whether or not you can provide them without overtime. Is the deadline flexible if it means avoiding overtime?

Set priorities that relate to deadlines and then to importance. You might find that your staff has ideas how to get work done faster or more efficiently. You may have to ask your exempt personnel to step up take on the overtime burden. If you need more resources, you need to realize that ahead of a crisis and consult with your team and your area vice president to find solutions.

OQ5: So much of our work is time-based where we absolutely must have it complete in order to comply with certain federal or state deadlines, or to get students in class. Often to do what we need done, we know we are going to have to work extra hours to everything processed in time. There is just no way that I can do it without overtime.

OA5: To be effective in managing to avoid overtime liability, supervisors and employees need to work well as a team and to communicate well with each other. So if your team is working and end up working a couple hours late one evening, take a look ahead at what the rest of the week holds.

  • Consider what must be done this week and what work might have more flexible deadlines.
  • Consider what work can be shifted to exempt employees from nonexempt employees.
  • Consider scheduling your nonexempt employees for a 40 hour week through your busy seasons.
  • Consider asking your area vice president if there is someone in another unit you can ‘borrow’ for a few hours or a few days to help get the work done.
  • Consider suggesting your employees close their doors and ignore the phones for a couple hours and focus on just getting the work processed as quickly and efficiently as possible.
  • Consider taking part of the workload and performing it yourself in order to meet the deadline.

OQ6: Realistically, I work in a small department and making me nonexempt and expecting me to get all my work done, well and on time, without ever working overtime is not reasonable. I’ve been working here for several years and I work more than the 35 scheduled hours almost every week and often as much as 45 hours a week. I understand what you say about talking with my supervisor and finding solutions, but in reality he just tells me to get it done and no overtime is approved. If I don’t get it done, I’ll get a bad review and risk being fired. I’m going to do what I need to do to get the work done and I’m going to report the overtime I work to do it. You have to pay me whether my overtime is approved or not, so I’m just going to put it down and get paid what I’m owed for doing my job.

OA6: We understand your frustration. It’s a challenging situation for everyone. We have employees who are willing to work to do what needs to be done but because of law and budget, we have to tell you ‘no overtime.’ And then we have exempt employees who work hard and we, because of law and budget, have to tell them they’re going to have to work more to help make up those hours that you’re not allowed to work. Unfortunately we have no choice but to follow the law and do the best we can with our budget. We understand your frustration, but the reality is we cannot afford to have nonexempt employees working extra hours and stay within our budget. Supervisors are tasked with finding solutions. If you work unapproved overtime, especially if it is a repeated event, we will need to take disciplinary action.

OQ7: Okay, what if I do the work but choose not to report any of the overtime. I just don’t tell my supervisor I worked at home. That way the work gets done, I don’t have to worry about a bad review, and it won’t affect Averett’s budget. You won’t even know.

OA7: Please do NOT take this approach. While we value your sense of duty and willingness to excel, we cannot afford the long term consequences of having violations of the FLSA. First, when the violation is discovered, we would need to pay you the overdue wages, but we would also be liable for civil and criminal penalties. That is simply not how Averett wants to do business and is not how we hope our employees feel they need to behave. Please do give us the opportunity to find appropriate, legal solutions to those time-crunch problems.

OQ8: What disciplinary action will be taken against employees and their supervisors who violates the overtime policy?

OA8: We realize that dealing with overtime challenges is new for many of our employees and supervisors. Averett does not want to discipline people if we can avoid it; but we do need to remind everyone to be responsible stewards of our budget funds.

Accidental, minor violations will result in a conversation with your supervisor to explore what can be done to avoid future errors. More frequent or more serious violations could lead to a written warning, for both the employee and the supervisor. In instances of multiple serious or habitual violations of the overtime policy, termination of employment is a possibility.

It is our goal to avoid the need to resort to such serious consequences by working with employees and supervisors to develop more time-awareness, more efficient work habits, and developing overtime management tools. Simply getting approval in advance avoids disciplinary action.

OQ9: Wait a minute! I’m a supervisor and I deny overtime approval for a nonexempt employee and arrange for another, exempt, staff member to assist with the work so that the project can be done without overtime expense. Later, I see that the nonexempt employee has reported (unapproved) overtime on the timesheet. What am I supposed to do? Why am I potentially facing disciplinary actions when I followed policy?

OA9: We are with you, this is the supervisor’s worst nightmare for overtime issues. When you see that overtime on the timesheet, you need to have a conversation with the employee and ask when and why the overtime was worked. Remind the employee that you specifically did not approve it and thought it was understood that no overtime would be worked by the nonexempt employee.

Next, you do need to verify the other timesheet entries, sign and date it, and submit it to payroll. You should make a note in the margin of the timesheet that the overtime was not approved. Never hold up the timesheet because payroll has a very short time to process the paperwork and get all employees paid.

After you forward the timesheet, contact the Director of Human Resources and your area vice president to discuss the situation and ask if there are any other steps you need to take at this time. If this incident is not the first time the employee has reported unapproved overtime, there are likely to be some additional steps you need to take. Supervisors who have repeated violations of the overtime policy in their unit are subject to disciplinary action, so it is important to work with Human Resources and your area vice president, to enable appropriate decisions to be made and help protect you from disciplinary consequences.

OQ10: There is no way I can get all the work done in 40 hours a week during our busy time at the start of a semester. My supervisor says there is no help available, I just have to find a way. There is no way that I can get everything done and I feel as though I’m left holding the bag without support. What can I do?

OA10: If you have talked with your supervisor and no solution is available and you cannot possibly complete the work without overtime, you still cannot incur overtime hours. Maybe there is a miscommunication or misunderstanding. You may approach your supervisor again, you may discuss the challenge with your area vice president, or you may contact the Director of Human Resources for advice on how to manage the situation.