Working Time FAQ

FLSA Working Time Frequently Asked Questions

1. I am a non-exempt employee who has to travel with students on a bus while en route to a student conference. Is my travel time compensable?
If the travel is associated with a trip to a one-day conference and back in the same day, then all hours are compensable (if you travel to the conference from home in our own vehicle, you must subtract the normal daily commuting time from the total travel time). If the travel is associated with a trip involving an overnight stay, it becomes more complicated. If no work is accomplished during the travel (ie, you can sleep, read, listen to music and are only there to take action in the event something happens), it will be compensable time only if it occurs during your normal working hours or the corresponding hours on a weekend or, if something occurs during the trip which requires your action, and then only for the period of time it takes to accomplish the action. If you are required to actively monitor the students at all times during the travel, it may be compensable time, regardless of the time it occurs. Contact HR for a determination of individual cases.
2. I am a chaperone for students during a trip. We arrive at our hotel at 6.00pm and the students must be in their rooms for the night by 10.00pm. Is this time at the hotel considered working hours?
If you are able to use the time for your own benefit (eg, go to the gym, the swimming pool, the hotel restaurant or even go to your room and sleep), the time will not be compensable. On the other hand, if you are required to regularly tour the facility, ensuring students are conducting themselves properly and are in their rooms on time, time will likely be considered to be compensable time. Time worked is rounded to the nearest 15 minutes.
3. I am changing to non-exempt status on December 1st. I regularly check my emails and other work-related material in the evenings just to keep caught up with work. Can I continue doing this when I become non-exempt?
If you are simply scanning emails (ie, seeing who sent it, the subject, and other cursory items) and it takes only a minute or two, it is unlikely to be recordable working time as it would be de minimis (negligible time) and there would be no problem with this. However, if you are reading emails and attachments, responding to them or taking any other actions relating to work, it is probably compensable time for which you must have prior permission from your supervisor. If you are contacted by your supervisor to respond to an email, you are essentially being told to work overtime and you should proceed. If you see an email which requires immediate action, but you are unable to obtain permission from your supervisor, go ahead and respond to the email, making note of the start and finish time (rounded to the nearest 15 minutes) and notify your supervisor of this on your first return to work. If it is considered to be recordable working time, your supervisor may adjust your working schedule (must be in the same working week), have you bank federal comp time or pay you for overtime, if the evening work puts you over 40 hours in the work week.
4. I have several employees who are changing from exempt to non-exempt. There are certain times during the year that they simply must respond to incoming emails in the evenings; this typically occurs over a two or three-day period but sometimes may last up to two weeks. Can I direct them to respond to emails they receive after hours, but only those for a specific subject?
Yes, as their supervisor, you may direct your employees to work at any time to meet business requirements. In this situation, you can have them record their start and finish times and then adjust their normal work days to cover the working time (rounded to the nearest 15 minutes) or, at the end of the work week if working time exceeds 40 hours, give them federal comp time or overtime pay to cover the overtime worked.
5. I am attending a two-day conference in another city and will be arriving the afternoon before the conference starts. There is a reception that evening, the night before the official conference starts. The following evening, the sponsors are hosting a dinner for participants after the normal conference hours. Both events are marked as optional on the agenda, but if I attend, will that be working time?
Attending the reception will most likely be considered working time, because receptions are usually intended to facilitate networking among participants and can be considered of benefit to the University. Attending the dinner is not straight forward. If there is a speaker and the subject is related to the conference, it is probably compensable time. If there is no speaker and the dinner involves arriving, having the meal and then leaving, it is more than likely non-compensable time.
6. I am traveling to a conference overseas. Will my travel be considered compensable time?
The answer can get complicated but basically follows the guideline of “did the travel occur during my normal working hours or the corresponding hours on a weekend?” The first thing to remember is to base all time traveled on either the origin or destination time zone. If you travel to London from Houston, your trip may look like this: 1) drive to Houston airport, taking 2 hours, arriving at 2.00pm 2) check in for your 4.00pm flight 2 hours prior to departure as required by the airline 3) fly to London, taking 9.5 hours, arriving in London at 7.30am 4) clear customs and immigration and travel to your hotel, taking 2.5 hours, arriving at your hotel at 10.00am. There is normally a 6-hour difference in time zones, so your arrival at your hotel in London will equate to 4.00am Houston time. For this trip, basing all travel on Houston time, you would have 5 hours of compensable travel time (2 hours for the drive to the airport, 2 hours from check in to flight time and the first hour of the flight, all occurring between your normal working hours of 8.00am – 5.00pm. The remainder of this travel leg is non-compensable because it occurred outside your normal working hours. However, if you base the travel leg on London time, you would only receive 2 hours of travel time; the period from the time you left home at noon until 30 minutes after your arrival in London all occurred between 5.00pm and 8.00am London time and is therefore not compensable. While at your destination, working hours would be based on the local time.
7. I am a Graduate Assistant (Research) and as part of my assistantship, I have to travel on occasion, sometimes significant distances. Will I receive pay or comp time for travel hours that occur during my normal working hours?
No. Graduate Assistant (Research) positions are coded as Exempt employees in our payroll system to accommodate the fact that they can be paid a fixed stipend; in fact, under the FLSA, GAR positions are not actually considered covered by the FLSA because they are conducting research under the supervision of a faculty member while in pursuit of an advanced degree. Therefore, GAR positions are not eligible for travel time at any time under the FLSA.
8. I am an exempt employee who works directly for a faculty member. We often end up working very long hours over the weekends, resulting in up to 55 hours per week being worked. Should we be getting some sort of extra pay or comp time?
No. Under the FLSA, exempt employees are not eligible for overtime pay or compensatory time. The only instance where an exempt employee can accrue comp time is when they are required to work on a University holiday. In that situation, an exempt employee will accrue one hour of State comp time (sometimes referred to as Holiday Comp Time) for each hour worked on the holiday. That time is treated the same as regular State comp time: it must be used within 12 months from the end of the work week in which it was earned and can only be paid by exception where taking the time off would cause serious disruption to teaching, research or other critical function.
9. I am an exempt employee and have been told I will have to work over the Thanksgiving break. Will I earn any comp time for this?
If you are required to work on the Thursday or Friday of the Thanksgiving break, you will receive hour-for-hour State comp time (sometimes referred to as Holiday comp time). However, if you are only required to work on the Saturday or Sunday, you will not accrue any comp time, as the Saturday and Sunday are not normal work days and therefore are not considered as part of the University holiday allocation.
10. I am currently exempt but will become non-exempt on December 1st because my current pay does not meet the new minimum threshold. My supervisor has told me I will need to continue working the same hours, but that he will not pay me the overtime which will be due because his funding does not allow payment of overtime. Do I have to do the work without the necessary overtime pay?
Yes and No. A non-exempt employee must be paid for all hours worked and, if they work more than 40 hours in one work week, they must receive either overtime pay at 1 ½ times their regular rate of pay, or, because the University is a public employer, they may be given federal comp time in lieu of overtime pay. This will accrue at a rate of 1 ½ hours of federal comp time for each hour of overtime worked. Therefore, you do not need to be paid for overtime hours worked; but if not, you must be given federal comp time at the 1 ½ times rate.
11. I am a non-exempt employee and have 20 hours in my federal comp time bank. I just requested 5 days of vacation time, but my supervisor told me I had to use all of my federal comp time first. Can he do this?
Yes. Supervisors may require an employee to use federal comp time that is banked before using vacation time. In this case, you would use 20 hours of federal comp time and 20 hours of vacation time for a total of 5 days off. Furthermore, a supervisor may require an employee to take time off to use up federal comp time, even if the employee does not ask to use the time.
12. I am currently exempt but will be going to non-exempt on December 1st. In addition to my full-time job, I work as a wage employee in a second job on campus. When originally submitted, it was determined that my hours worked in both jobs would not be combined for calculating overtime. However, my supervisor asked for a re-evaluation of the dual employment and it has been determined that all the hours I work in both jobs must be combined and I will therefore be, essentially, in an overtime status for all hours worked in my secondary wage position. I do not necessarily need the overtime pay and would prefer to have the comp time instead. Can I choose to get comp time instead in this situation?
No, comp time cannot be given for extra work in a wage position. Any overtime worked in a wage status must be paid.
13. I recently finished an evening class I have been taking in town. Does the time I spent on the course have to be considered working time? I know there are four conditions that must be met or the time is considered compensable and one of the conditions is that it does not relate to my job. In this case it does relate to my job because it has given me the capability of doing my job here at the University more effectively and more efficiently.
No, this would not be considered working time. You were taking the course as an individual, outside of working hours, and therefore it is not compensable University working time. On the other hand, if your supervisor had directed you to take this specific course, then it would be considered working time.
14. Who decides whether overtime will result in payment or comp time?
Your department will decide how overtime will be settled, but may allow you to provide an input.
15. Do you have to cash out federal comp time after 12 months?
No, but it is the recommendation to do so to avoid future financial liabilities.
16. Do you need to have a written policy on how you handle comp time?
No, department do not need written policies. If a written policy is developed, you should first have it review by Classification & Compensation to ensure it is fully in compliance.
17. If you have a wellness release time schedule & you don’t take it, what happens?
You lose the time. WRT cannot be combined or banked.
18. Regarding travel time for a one-day meeting in another city, if you have a 5 minute commute, do you have to take out 10 minutes from the total travel time?
Yes. For trips to another city and back in the same day, you must subtract your normal commute time from the total travel time.
19. Are receptions at conferences that are outside of normal working hours compensable?
Conference receptions are commonly used primarily for networking with other attendees and can be considered to be beneficial to the University. If in doubt, contact the Classification & Compensation Office.
20. Do employees need permission to work overtime? What if it’s an emergency situation & there’s not time to get authorization to work overtime?
Yes, overtime must be authorized in advance, except in the case of an emergency or other situation where the supervisor is unavailable. In such a situation, go ahead and perform the overtime work as requested and then notify your supervisor at the start of the next business day.
21. If we write up departmental guidelines on travel time, can you review them?
Yes, Classification & Compensation would be happy to review your proposed guidelines.

For more information, please contact Classification and Compensation by email at or by phone at (979) 845-4170.