Under U.S. Department of Labor regulations, nonexempt salaried employees have the same overtime pay protections as hourly employees. Exempt salaried employees are not eligible for overtime regardless of hours worked. The regulations related to a nonexempt salaried employee concern only the rate at which the overtime is paid for that work not the maximum number of hours your employer can require you to work, which is the question at hand.
The DOL is concerned primarily with the wages you are paid, and so regulates the way your pay is calculated if you work more than 40 hours per week. Nonexempt salaried workers make the same amount of money each paycheck, unless they work over 40 hours, but the DOL does not regulate the maximum number of hours you can work in any work week. There is no maximum under federal labor laws. If you are subject to overtime provisions, the only DOL requirement regarding your hours is that you are paid one and one-half times your regular rate of pay for each hour worked over 40. State law cannot reduce the overtime rate but can increase it. State labor law can only change federal law if the state law is more advantageous to the employee.
If you are a nonexempt salaried employee and receive compensatory time -- time off in lieu of wages for overtime hours -- it too must be paid at one and one-half times your regular rate of pay. Though there is no maximum number of hours you can work in a week, there is a restriction on the number of compensatory time hours you can accrue in a year if you are salaried and eligible for overtime pay. Offering compensatory time in lieu of overtime applies only to public agencies through collective bargaining agreements or agreements with employees not subject to collective bargaining, if those agreements are made prior to the work being performed. There is no limit to the number of hours you can work, just the number of hours that can be accrued as compensatory time.
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Maximum Accrued Hours
Unless you are in public safety, the maximum number of hours you can accrue in compensatory time, as a nonexempt salaried employee, is 240 hours. Once you have reached this plateau, you must be paid for your overtime in cash compensation. For public safety employees the maximum number of accrued compensatory hours is 480. These values cannot be overridden by collective bargaining agreements.
Miscellaneous Rules for Hours Worked
According to a study by the CDC's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health on Long Working Hours, Safety and Health, Americans work more hours than any industrialized nation in the world. Some industries have federally mandated maximum work hours for safety reasons, such as the transportation industry. Truck drivers and railroad workers, for example, have federally mandated rest hours and the maximum number of hours they can work is regulated by Department of Transportation and Federal Railroad Administration, not the Department of Labor. Barring these industries, regulations prohibiting mandatory overtime or dictating a maximum number of work hours come from the states. According to the CDC, some states are passing laws prohibiting maximum mandatory overtime for health care workers and are also limiting the maximum hours an employee may work before he can choose to go home due to productivity, health and safety issues. Check with your state to see if regulations have been instituted.