How Many Hours Should an Employee on Salary Work?

by W D Adkins; Updated September 26, 2017

Salaried employees are paid a predetermined sum rather than compensation based on the number of hours worked. In most cases, particularly in office jobs, salaried employees are expected to work 40 hours a week, though there may be weeks when the job requires more time. The hours a salaried employee should work depends in part on whether she is considered exempt or non-exempt with regard to the minimum wage and overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Exempt Employees and the FLSA

Section 13(a)(1) of the FLSA allows employers to pay some employees a salary without meeting minimum wage or overtime requirements. Employers may ask an exempt employee to work as many hours as the job requires with no additional compensation, even when a work week exceeds 40 hours. Normally, employers can’t reduce an exempt employee’s salary if he works fewer than the usual number of hours. A reduction is allowed only in specific situations, such as when an employee takes time off for personal reasons. An exempt employee’s salary must equal at least $455 per week, as of the time of publication.

FLSA Exemption Criteria

Eligibility for exempt status is based on actual job activities, not job titles. It’s not unusual for an exempt position to require more than 40 hours per week, but this is typically a matter that is agreed upon between the employer and employee. Exempt positions can be executive, administrative or professional in nature. Outside sales and some computer positions may also be exempt. In general, the employee’s job activities must primarily involve managerial or highly skilled non-manual labor with significant discretionary authority and use of independent judgment.

Restrictions for Certain Occupations

Law enforcement personnel such as police and detectives do not qualify for exempt status even if the specific position meets FLSA standards as executive, administrative or professional. This rule also applies to firefighters, employees working directly with convicted criminals or who provide emergency services such as dealing with hazardous spills or medical rescue. These occupations frequently require more than 40 hours a week in crisis situations. Overtime pay at one and one-half times a regular hourly rate is required even when an employee is paid a salary.

Hours for Non-Exempt Employees

Non-exempt employees may be paid a salary, but are also paid overtime when they work more than 40 hours in a week. Employers typically want non-exempt employees to work 40 hours per week or less. FLSA rules require employers to convert the salary to an equivalent hourly rate to calculate overtime pay. Suppose a non-exempt employee earns a salary of $540 for a 36-hour week. This works out to $15 per hour. If she works 44 hours one week, she is paid $15 per hour for 44 hours plus an extra $7.50 per hour for four overtime hours. Employers are not required by the FSLA to pay for extra time worked when the total is less than 40 hours. For example, if the employee is expected to work 36 hours but works 38 hours one week, the employer does not have to pay extra under the FLSA. However, some state laws do require extra pay. Under the FLSA employers can reduce the salary of non-exempt employees when they work less than the expected number of hours. Again, some state laws don’t allow this practice.

About the Author

Based in Atlanta, Georgia, W D Adkins has been writing professionally since 2008. He writes about business, personal finance and careers. Adkins holds master's degrees in history and sociology from Georgia State University. He became a member of the Society of Professional Journalists in 2009.