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LeadingEdition: E-Newsletter for Purdue University Supervisors

Managing overtime: Setting the stage for success

Overtime is more than an issue of compensation. Effective employee relations strategies can alleviate common confusion and dilemmas surrounding overtime.

As a supervisor of non-exempt employees, you?re responsible for seeing that employees accurately record the time they work and receive overtime when it?s due. This article looks at managing overtime issues through workplace atmosphere, communication, and expectation setting.


Frequently, employees tell us that their department ?does not allow overtime.? Unfortunately, sometimes embedded in this phrase is the unspoken meaning that employees may be required to work overtime to complete their work, but will not be paid for it. Employees fear that their supervisors will reprimand them if they show overtime on their time cards, so they work the hours and don?t record them.

In addition to the fact that this practice is illegal, it creates an atmosphere that is bad for morale and productivity. Employees who feel they have been cheated out of pay will not be as productive or willing to go the extra mile. Fearing retribution for recording overtime, employees may carry that feeling over into the rest of their job, coming to fear that their supervisor may retaliate against them anytime they do something wrong. This creates a hostile and intimidating workplace.

Instead, creating an atmosphere where employees feel respected and know that you will deal with them in a fair, honest, and equitable manner goes a long way toward building a positive work atmosphere. Additionally, supervisors should foster a sense of trust where employees feel comfortable raising the issue if they believe they need more hours to complete assigned work.

Communicate expectations

Communication and expectation setting work hand-in-hand when it comes to overtime. Sometimes a supervisor does not realize that an employee is working overtime and so does not ask questions when extra time is not recorded. An employee may work overtime without mentioning it out of fear the supervisor will think the employee is incapable of doing the job. In other circumstances, an employee may decline to record overtime out of goodness of heart, believing that the department cannot afford to pay for the extra time.

Upon hiring an employee and at various times throughout the employee?s tenure, the supervisor should be sure the employee understands the following:


Employees must receive permission to work overtime.


Employees must accurately record all overtime on their time cards


Employees cannot work overtime out of the goodness of their hearts

Discipline and diligence

If you encounter a situation where an employee continues to work extra time after you've told them not to, you need to engage in the progressive discipline process with the employee. This discipline could go as far as terminating the employee?s employment if he or she refuses to stop working extra time. Claiming that you told the employee not to work extra time, but that the employee ?just wouldn?t listen? is not an acceptable defense; the department is still liable for the overtime.

Supervisors need to remain attentive to the time worked by their staff. Stopping at the normal quitting time, but spending another 15 minutes putting things away or sending a few last minute e-mails is still working. Likewise, staff who read a book while waiting for a ride may be eligible for overtime if they answer the phone or direct staff or students during this time.

In all cases, it?s the supervisor?s responsibility to manage the overtime of their employees. Often unpaid overtime issues come up quite innocently when an employee is talking with Human Resources on another matter. When this happens, Internal Audit is called into the case to assess the situation. Spending time upfront developing a positive workplace atmosphere, maintaining communication with employees, and setting expectations can help avoid problems.

It is important to note that from time to time the federal government revises the Fair Labor Standards Act requirements related to overtime, and/or issues decision letters that affect how the University determines which positions qualify for overtime. Keep in mind, these decisions made at a federal level may lead to widespread changes for all employers, including the University.

The Compensation and Classification staff in Human Resource Services can answer your questions about overtime rules and procedures. The details of recording and paying overtime properly may be found in the Business Procedures Manual and on the Policies Web site. The Employee Relations staff is available to help if you want more information or need assistance with workplace atmosphere, communication, or discipline issues.

This is a revision of an article originally authored by Tom Ganz and Sharon Williams.

- Kathy Peters
Employee Relations

Gold rule

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LeadingEdition is an electronic newsletter for Purdue University supervisors.  It is produced and distributed by Purdue University Human Resources four times annually.  If you have questions, comments or suggestions relating to the newsletter, please call 49-41679 or email us.  Thank you.