University of Wisconsin–Madison

Frequently Asked Questions about Exempt to Non-Exempt Changes Due to Salary

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How is time reporting different for Exempt and Nonexempt employees?

Exempt (salary) employees are not required to report their time worked. They are required to report leave usage.

Nonexempt (hourly) employees must account for time worked rather than accounting for leave used. All time worked must be reported. Leave time must be reported in 15-minute increments.

Who decides if an employee can work overtime?

Overtime must be preapproved and is at the discretion of the school/division/college and supervisor. An employee must get prior approval to work overtime, according to procedures/policies set by the school/division/college and supervisor.

Can a Nonexempt employee still work early and late?

Perhaps. A non-exempt employee may modify their normal work schedule if they have pre-approval from their supervisor. Non-exempt employees need to record all time worked.

Can Nonexempt employees still attend professional conferences?

Yes. Nonexempt (hourly) employees must account for the travel time and for the hours of conference attendance, but there is no prohibition on traveling or professional development.

Can a Nonexempt employee check messages from home after work hours?

Checking messages after normal work hours is considered work time. Nonexempt employees must record all time worked. Checking messages outside of normal work hours should be preapproved by an employee’s supervisor.

What if an employee doesn't mind working more than their FTE and not being compensated for it?

This is considered “volunteering” and Regulations 29 C.F.R. §553.103 states employees of public employers can volunteer their services provided “such services are not the same type of services which the individual is employed to perform for such public agency.” Whether volunteering is not of the same type of services the individual is employed to perform depends not only what the written job duties of an employee are, but also the duties and responsibilities that are actually assigned to the employee. Performing the same/similar job duties as the position you are hired to perform without receiving compensation is not allowed. Thus, when permitting an employee to volunteer, it is best practice to place them in a volunteer role that is as separate and distinct as possible from his/her written, as well as actual, job duties.

As Exempt staff, am I able to attend medical appointments that take less than 2 hours without reporting leave?

Yes. Exempt Staff are able to allocate their time as needed without reporting leave for short work interruptions, in communication with their supervisor and in accordance with ith relevant policy and departmental guidelines and expectations. Full-time exempt employees report leave usage according to the guidelines in relevant policy. See (at Part VII.2.b.i) and (at Part VII.2.b.i).

For an Academic Staff employee, does being paid hourly mean becoming a member of University Staff?

No. Academic Staff who are designated as nonexempt (hourly) will remain Academic Staff.

What if I change jobs? Will I still be Nonexempt?

Maybe. Every position is evaluated for status under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to see if it exempt or nonexempt based on the guidelines. If you change jobs, your FLSA exemption status may change based on the exemption status associated with the new position.

Are Nonexempt Academic Staff or Graduate Assistants eligible for night differential pay or weekend differential pay?

No, nonexempt Academic Staff and graduate assistants are not eligible for night differential pay or weekend differential pay.

How does a Nonexempt employee report hours if they fluctuate from week to week? Can an employee just record the same hours every week and not record the variations as long as it events out in the long run?

No. Nonexempt employees must report all actual hours worked each workweek and are expected to work the number of hours each workweek associated with their FTE (e.g. 50% FTE works 20 hours/week). A nonexempt employee cannot choose to record only some selected hours worked. All hours worked in the workweek must be reported, regardless of the effect on overtime.

A nonexempt employee is expected to supplement leave time when they do not work the hours associated with their FTE within a defined workweek. With supervisory approval, employees can fluctuate the days of work or times of work within the same workweek in order to accommodate time off.

Can a Nonexempt Academic Staff employee convert to University Staff under the Employee Choice program?

No. Academic Staff who are designated as nonexempt cannot convert to University Staff under the Employee Choice Program.

If an A-Basis Nonexempt Academic Staff employee works on a legal holiday, do they receive additional compensation?

No, A-Basis nonexempt academic staff are not eligible for holiday premium pay. If they work on the legal holiday, the legal holiday hours not used will be retained in their leave bank.

Does becoming nonexempt and recording hours worked mean my regular weekly schedule or hours of work has to change? What if I am late or absent?

The employee’s schedule or call-in procedures do not necessarily have to change as a result of becoming nonexempt, but it might. The employee should confirm with their supervisor how this may affect work hours, schedules, and call-in procedures. Some nonexempt employees have regular set schedules, and some have more flexible or varied schedules.

Don’t all employees, exempt and nonexempt, report time? How is tracking hours worked different, for a nonexempt employee?

Yes, all employees report time. However, nonexempt employees must report “hours worked.” All time worked must be reported. Leave is reported and accounted for in 15 minute increments. Exempt employees must report leave taken.

If a nonexempt employee is 100% full-time, but works only 35 hours in a work week, would the employee have to use 5 hours of paid leave time to make up the difference, if they want to be paid for 40 hours for that week?

Yes. A nonexempt employee is paid for the actual hours worked, and if that does not equal the scheduled hours worked for that week, the employee would need to use available paid leave time including comp time, vacation, sick, etc. to make up the difference.

When is an employee entitled to overtime or compensatory time?

Nonexempt employees are entitled to compensation for all hours worked. Overtime or compensatory time (at premium time; or time and a half) is earned for all hours worked over 40 in a work week. The work week is Sunday through Saturday. “Hours worked” does not include paid time out of the workplace (e.g., sick leave, vacation time, etc.).

Compensation for hours worked up to 40 in a work week is at “straight time” (the regular hourly rate). This is awarded as monetary compensation.
Compensation for hours worked over 40 in a work week is at “premium time” (one and a half times the regular hourly rate). This can either be paid as overtime pay or accrued as compensatory (“comp”) time. See HR Policy 11.01: Overtime (Appendix 1) for more details.

What if a supervisor does not approve (or refuses to approve) a nonexempt employee’s time? Will that nonexempt employee get paid for the time?

Nonexempt employees must be paid for all hours worked. If a nonexempt employee works, they must be paid for those hours, even if they are unauthorized or not preapproved. While there may be disciplinary consequences to the employee for working unauthorized or unapproved hours, the supervisor cannot refuse to approve the hours worked just because the time was not preauthorized. If, on the other hand, the supervisor fails to approve the time in a timely fashion or runs into errors while submitting, it is the responsibility of the department/division payroll and benefits staff to take action to ensure payment to the employee.

What if a Principal Investigator (PI) tells a staff member (ex. graduate assistant, academic staff or university staff) to not record all of his/her hours worked, or to lie about his/her hours worked?

It is not up to any non-exempt employee or a PI to make a decision or evaluation about whether to comply with federal law. Even if an employee is willing to “volunteer” to work extra hours or for less than the minimum salary, UW–Madison and the PI are legally required to pay them the minimum salary or pay them for all the hours worked. If any employee is asked to lie about their hours or sees any others employees being asked to work undocumented overtime, they should report the violation to the Divisional Human Resources Office or the Office of Human Resources/Workforce Relations. It is illegal for employers to fire, retaliate, or discriminate against an employee for filing a complaint.

As exempt staff I am able to attend medical appointments that take less than 2 hours, without reporting leave. Can I still do this if I change to nonexempt?

A nonexempt employee will need to record leave in 15-minute increments for this absence. The employee should confirm with their supervisor how this may affect work hours and schedules. Some nonexempt employees have regular set schedules, and some have more flexible or varied schedules.

What is counted as hours worked for a nonexempt employee, and who decides? Can a nonexempt employee come in to work early and stay late? Check messages from home after work hours? Go to conferences or travel?

Information on what is considered compensable hours can be found in HR Policy 11.01: Overtime – Appendix 1. Information specific to your work situation should be discussed with your supervisor in order to determine your work schedule.

Can a nonexempt employee work more than their scheduled hours? For example, if the employee is part-time and has a 50% FTE (or 20 hours per week), can they work 25 hours? If they do, what do they earn for those extra hours? When do they start earning overtime?

A part-time nonexempt employee can work more than their scheduled hours, with supervisor approval, unless they are an International Student. When this occurs, the employee receives their regular hourly rate for all hours worked until they reach 40 hours worked in the workweek. Any hours worked over 40 hours are considered overtime and earn payment at the premium rate.

International Students are limited to 20 hours per week by their Visa requirements.

Who decides if compensatory (“comp”) time is allowed at a school/college/division for eligible employees? If allowed, how much can be accumulated?

Comp time accrual and usage is at the discretion of the school/college/division. Not more than 80 hours of comp time can be accumulated by eligible employees. When an employee has 80 hours of comp time earned, no additional comp time can be earned, and any overtime earned would need to be paid out as overtime pay.

Can a part time employee earn compensatory time if they work more hours than their normal schedule?

Comp time can only be accrued only when a comp time eligible nonexempt employee works more than 40 hours in a work week. Hours worked under 40 in a work week are paid, but at the regular hourly rate (straight time).

How do I record travel and conference time as time worked?

Travel time is recorded the same way as other hours worked, with no special time codes. Whether employees are paid for travel time largely depends on the kind of travel involved. Employees should work closely with their supervisor, and/or HR Rep, to determine whether the travel time is compensable.

Where do I get additional information on how to record time?

Information on time reporting, accessing your timesheet as well as many other questions can be addressed by your local HR contact.

Will my supervisor expect me to get the same amount of work done in 40 hours that used to take me over 40 hours?

It depends. In some cases, employees and supervisors can work together to increase efficiencies, in which case the time it takes to complete any particular task may be reduced. In other situations, the issue that needs to be addressed is not how much time it takes to do a task but rather when it needs to be done. For instance, if an important phone call must occur before the beginning of the regular workday, an employee can work with a supervisor to adjust their schedule to work less time on a different day in the same week. Finally, in limited circumstances, a supervisor may be authorized to approve overtime for work in excess of 40 hours or to reassign certain tasks to other employees.

If I cannot complete the same amount of work in 40 hours, will my performance appraisal suffer?

It depends. In general, employees should be provided sufficient time to reasonably complete the work they are assigned. If an employee believes that they have insufficient time to complete their work, they should consult with their supervisor. See also previous FAQ. At the end of the day, the performance appraisal will compare an employee’s individual performance to a reasonable standard for the type and amount of work performed.

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