Q: I am a GS-15 Step 10. My Personnel Department reportedly has received direction from OPM that I cannot receive comp time because my salary restricts me from receiving overtime pay. The logic is that since comp time may be converted to overtime pay if I do not take the time off, and I cannot receive any more money than I now do. Therefore, I am restricted from working comp time. I thought the agency could restrict the conversion of comp time to overtime pay but they do not accept that. Your article does not specifically address this. Can you clarify for me?
A: Regarding your question, apparently what your HR office didn’t mention is a provision of the regulations that is not discussed very often. There is a biweekly maximum earnings limit built into the regulations at 5 C.F.R. § 550.105(a). It prohibits employees from earning more premium pay and basic pay in a biweekly pay period than the greater of (1) either the maximum rate of basic pay for a GS-15 (i.e., the rate of basic pay for GS-15 step 10, such as you) (2) or the maximum rate payable to a Level V on the Executive Schedule. Premium pay is defined at 5 C.F.R. § 550.103, and includes the dollar value of comp time.
Thus, even though the comp time is not directly paid to you in dollars, the regulation prohibits you from receiving it because the dollar value of the comp time when added to your basic pay would take you over the biweekly premium pay cap. Not a fun present to get at this time of the year, but it is a provision that has been around just about as long as the Federal Employees Pay Act, which was signed into law in 1945.
Wayne Coleman is a federal pay expert available to help your agency avoid premium pay claims through on-site training. Contact him for more information.