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Overtime: Cash or Comp Time?

If you’ve worked overtime before, you probably know that overtime pay is calculated differently depending on whether the total number of hours you work in a week is under 40 hours or over 40 hours. What you might not know is that any overtime hours you work up to 40 hours in a week can either be paid to you as cash or as time off. This means that you can be paid in cash at your standard rate of pay or you can be paid out in compensatory time (“comp time”). Comp time is time-off that you can bank for later use.

It’s important to know that you can’t be required to take the pay as comp time — that choice always rests with you — and this is laid out in the HUCTW contract (below). You can also request to get paid out for your accrued comp time at any point.

However, keep in mind that this only applies to overtime hours under and up to 40 hours per week. Any overtime you work above 40 hours in a given week must be paid to you in cash, at 1.5 times your standard rate of pay. There is no “comp time” option for hours worked above 40.

These policies are detailed below, in the HUCTW contract.

If you encounter any problems with overtime compensation and would like assistance or advice, please reach out to HUCTW. We can help you strategize confidentially about how best to address your situation.


Every non-exempt employee who works beyond her/his regularly scheduled hours has a right, guaranteed by law, to be appropriately compensated for extra time worked.

  1. In calculating hours worked for overtime purposes, all hours “paid” are considered hours “worked.” That is, extra hours worked in a week where a paid absence also occurs (a holiday, sick day, vacation, etc.) are compensated according to overtime policy. There is one exception: Comp time hours “paid” are not considered hours “worked.”
  1. Occasions may arise which necessitate unanticipated overtime work. Employees should try to accommodate such needs of the workplace, but should not be required to do so if they have a prior conflicting commitment which they cannot reasonably alter. If such instances become routine, the situation should be evaluated and discussed by the employee’s supervisor.
  1. Employees are not expected to work overtime beyond the occasions referred to in paragraph 2 (above) unless it is part of their job description, understood by them before hiring, or agreed to in the event of a reasonable need for change in the job.
  1. Refusal to work any overtime that is not part of an employee’s job description will not be reflected in an employee’s overall performance evaluation.
  1. Some offices at Harvard regularly provide their employees with opportunities to work overtime. Where such overtime work is not specialized and calls on the generic
    abilities of any of the employees in the office, all employees in that office should have equitable access to such overtime, if they so desire.
  1. Ordinarily, overtime arrangements will be authorized in advance by the supervisor.
  1. Harvard’s workweek begins Sunday at 12:01 a.m. and ends the following Saturday at 
midnight. The following overtime compensation requirements apply:

Overtime for Hours Over 40. An employee who works over 40 hours during a particular workweek must be paid time and one-half the regular hourly rate for all hours worked over 40 hours in that workweek

Overtime for Hours under 40 and Use of Compensatory Time. An employee who works more hours than her/his regular schedule but not more than 40 hours during a particular workweek may either:

Be paid straight time (regular hourly rate) for these additional hours,


Assign to him/herself the right to receive compensation for these hours at a future date by banking these hours in a non-interest-bearing compensatory time off account for future use as paid time off. While the time off should be arranged with the supervisor, employees may request the financial compensation at any time. Employees will not be able to accrue more than 40 unused compensatory hours, and although these hours may be carried over from year to year, they must be paid out at termination and will ordinarily be paid out at the time of transfer to another position.

(Excerpt from the Harvard-HUCTW Personnel Manual, pages 31-32)

If you encounter any problems with overtime compensation and would like assistance or advice, please reach out to HUCTW. We can help you strategize confidentially about how best to address your situation.