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Exempt employee questions extra hours with no extra pay

Without a contract limiting your hours, your schedule

Without a contract limiting your hours, your schedule as an exempt employee can be subject to change.  Credit: Getty Images/South_agency

DEAR CARRIE: I work for a medical practice that is open seven days a week. It’s a relatively new business, and I was hired a couple of years ago as a practice administrator Monday through Friday. In the beginning, I worked endless hours to make this practice work. As time went by, it was clear that none of my hard work on the weekends was appreciated. I am not paid for weekend work, nor am I given comp days for the extra time. I generally work about 50 hours a week. I have promoted some staff to supervisors, and part of their job is to handle weekend calls. Recently a worker called in sick at the last minute on a Sunday. My supervisor took the call and alerted me. She tried hard to get another staff member to come in. In the end, we could not get a substitute for the front desk. But the medical assistant, who is one of the promoted supervisors, handled the morning by herself really well. I thought that was that. But when I went in on Monday, the two physicians rudely told me I should have been in the office and that it is my responsibility to work on weekends when someone calls in sick. I advised them that the supervisor handled the situation well, and there was nothing I could do as I was a great distance from the office. I am clearly an exempt employee designated as a practice administrator who works Monday through Friday. I did report this to the human-resource department, but no one has gotten back to me. The physicians demand that I be on call to work every weekend. Are there labor laws that make it illegal for an exempt employee who is scheduled to work Monday through Friday to be forced to work on a Saturday or Sunday, too? — Weary Worker

DEAR WEARY: Unless you have a contract that limits your hours, that Monday through Friday schedule is like the suggested retail price for a car: subject to change. Labor laws don’t limit the hours of adult workers, even those of nonexempt, or hourly, employees. But the difference is that the latter must be paid for all the hours they work and overtime when they work more than 40 hours a week.

 But when it comes to exempt workers, they just have to be paid a set salary, which on Long Island is currently  $825 a week  for employees that fall into the executive and administrative categories. Aside from that salary, exempt workers don’t have to be paid a penny more, no matter how many extra hours they work.

I am surprised your supervisors didn’t explain that to you. If they had, you wouldn’t have had to take the extra step of reporting the matter to HR.

I often get this question from newly minted supervisors who are grateful for the bump up in pay their new job brings but are astounded to find out that they can legally be asked to work numerous more hours in the week without extra pay.

Those situations may seem unfair, but they’re legal.    

DEAR CARRIE: Is there a limit on the number of hours, either per day or per week, that an exempt employee can be expected to work? — Inquiring Mind

DEAR INQUIRING: As I mentioned in the question above, labor law generally don’t limit the number of hours adult employees can be required to work, whether it be on a daily or weekly basis.

As with any law, there are exceptions. For example, state law requires workers in such businesses as factories and hotels, except resort and seasonal hotels, to get at least 24 consecutive hours of rest in each calendar week. (For a more complete list, check the link that accompanies this story online.)

Other that, an employer can require an adult employee to work any number of hours.    

Go to for a list of industries and jobs whose employees must be given at least 24 hours of rest in each calendar workweek.


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