Overtime pay for federal employees is covered under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The FLSA provides for minimum standards for both wages and overtime entitlement, and spells out administrative procedures by which covered work time must be compensated.

The Act exempts specified employees or groups of employees from the application of certain of its provisions. The pertinent regulations are in 5 CFR 551.

For employees with rates of basic pay equal to or less than the rate of basic pay for GS-10, step 1, the overtime hourly rate is the employee’s hourly rate of basic pay multiplied by 1.5. Under 5 U.S.C. 5542(a)(2), for employees with rates of basic pay greater than the basic pay for GS-10, step 1, the overtime hourly rate is the greater of:

  • the hourly rate of basic pay for GS-10, step 1, multiplied by 1.5; or
  • the employee’s hourly rate of basic pay.

The effect is that those employees are guaranteed at least their hourly rate of pay for overtime, unlike in prior policy in which some at higher grades made less for overtime than for regular time because of the GS-10, step 1 cap.

These hourly overtime pay limitations do not apply to prevailing rate (wage) employees or to FLSA overtime pay.

To qualify for overtime, working hours must be officially ordered and approved by the supervisor.

A job or an entire geographic area may be exempt or nonexempt. An FLSA exempt employee is one who is not covered by the overtime provisions of the Act; a nonexempt employee is one who is covered. An exempt area is any foreign country, or any territory under the jurisdiction of the United States other than Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and certain designated Pacific Island areas.

The Office of Personnel Management administers the Act with respect to most federal employees, and the Labor Department administers the Act for the U.S. Postal Service, Tennessee Valley Authority and Postal Rate Commission. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission administers the equal pay provisions contained in the Act.

In some situations compensatory time off may be granted in lieu of overtime.

Rules at 5 CFR 551 make the government’s internal rules on overtime mirror certain Labor Department policies applying to the private sector. Those policies presume certain positions to be eligible based on their salary level and bar taking into account the percentage of time the individual spends on duties considered exempt or not exempt.

Note: Certain employees who are exempt and thus ineligible for overtime pay under the FLSA may be eligible under the separate overtime authority of Title 5, U.S. Code 5542-5547.

Overtime Pay Caps

An employee may receive premium pay only to the extent that the payment of premium pay does not cause the total amount of basic pay plus premium pay (including overtime, night, Sunday, and holiday premium pay) in any biweekly pay period to exceed the greater of:

  • the biweekly rate for GS-15, step 10 (including any applicable special salary rate or locality rate of pay); or
  • the rate for Level V of the Executive Schedule.

In certain emergency or mission-critical situations, an agency may apply an annual premium pay cap instead of the biweekly premium pay cap, subject to the conditions provided in law and regulation. (See 5 U.S.C. 5547(b) and 5 CFR 550.106-550.107.)

Callback Overtime

If an employee is required to return to the place of employment for unscheduled overtime work or to work unscheduled overtime on a nonscheduled workday, a minimum of two hours will be paid. If the callback occurs during a holiday or during the employee’s regular work schedule, a minimum of two hours will be paid.

Compensatory Time

Eligible employees can have compensatory time off from their regular scheduled tour of duty instead of payment for an equal amount of time spent in irregular or occasional overtime work. For details, see Comp Time Off.


Firefighters generally are scheduled for duty six 12-hour days for an average of 72 hours a week or three alternate 24-hour shifts during each administrative workweek. A 60-hour week consisting of five 12-hour days may be established when firefighters are scheduled only during daylight hours. Fire chiefs, assistant fire chiefs, fire prevention inspectors, and similar fire protection personnel have basic weekly tours of duty of 40 hours unless duties require substantial amounts of standby time.

Overtime Pay for Standby Duty

In an emergency, employees may be restricted to their agency’s premises for periods that extend beyond their normal tour of duty. Most employees will not be entitled to any additional pay for this extended period. However, employees who are required to remain in a state of readiness to perform work during this extended period may be entitled to overtime pay for standby duty.

The rules on standby duty are found in 5 CFR 550.112(k), for employees who are exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), and in 5 CFR 551.431, for FLSA-covered employees. The key issue in determining whether an employee is entitled to overtime pay for standby duty is the nature of the restrictions placed on the employee.

FLSA Overtime Claims

OPM’s responsibilities include adjudicating exemption status determination claims and claims for overtime for work performed under the Act. An FLSA pay claim is subject to a two-year statute of limitations, except in cases of a willful violation where the statute of limitations is three years.

FLSA claims should be filed with the Classification Appeals and FLSA Claims Program Manager, Merit System Audit and Compliance, Office of Personnel Management, Room 6484, 1900 E St., NW, Washington, D.C. 20415, phone (202) 606-7948.