Most types of government employees are eligible for overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FSLA). However, even if you are eligible, your employing agency may fail to recognize your eligibility by misclassifying you as “exempt”. When government employees are misclassified, they are deprived of full compensation for the important work they perform, including premium pay for overtime hours worked.

When this happens, you can get help from a government employee overtime attorney. While you’re considering whether to contact a lawyer, it may help you to understand all the factors that may play a role in your potential claim for backpay.

See the information below to learn more about how overtime works, what types of federal employees are eligible, what acts may be considered violations, and how to respond.

How Does Federal Employee Overtime Pay Work?

The requirements for federal employee overtime pay are covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act, and by Title V of the United States Code.

Overtime Rules for Government Employees Covered by the FSLA

Under the FLSA, covered, non-exempt employees must receive overtime pay when they work more than 40 hours in one workweek.
This requirement is applied on a workweek basis. Each employee’s workweek is defined as a fixed and recurring period of 168-hours (7 consecutive 24-hour periods). In most cases, the overtime pay earned in the workweek must be paid on the regular payday for that week’s work hours.
The compensation rate for overtime pay is also set at not less than time-and-a-half of the employee’s regular rate of pay.

Overtime Rules for Government Employees Covered by Title V

FLSA-exempt employees who work full-time, part-time or intermittent duty may be eligible for overtime pay under Title V. These codes set rates that depend on the employee’s basic pay rates.
Title V-covered employees are subject to a biweekly pay limitation that limits the amount of premium pay that they can collect. Their combined premium pay for that period cannot exceed the greater number of either the GS-15 pay rate or the level V pay rate of the Executive Schedule.
In most cases, FLSA-exempt employees will not receive the same protections that are enjoyed by FLSA-covered employees. For example:

  • FLSA-eligible employees are entitled to pay for weekend travel if the travel occurs during administrative work hours. FLSA-exempt employees are not entitled to weekend travel pay in most situations.
  • FLSA-eligible employees do not have a maximum earnings limitation, while Title V employees do.
  • FLSA-eligible employees are not required to accept compensatory time off or credit hours as an alternative to overtime pay. Title V employees may be required to do so.  

Examples of Unique Conditions for Overtime

Special overtime pay conditions or challenges may apply to government employees based on their role. The following sections will note some of the rules and exemptions that apply to common government employees:  

  • Firefighters & Rescue
  • Law Enforcement

Firefighters & Rescue

Overtime rules often apply to Firefighters in unusual ways due to the nature of their work. As first-responders, fire and rescue employees may be considered “on-duty” even when they are sleeping or eating meals.
When the employees work shift is expected to last more than 24 hours, the following rules may apply:

  • Sleep: Employers may deduct 8 hours of sleep time from an employee’s worked hours, but only when that sleep time isn’t substantially interrupted. If work interrupts the sleep period so that fewer than 5 hours of sleep are used, the full 8-hour allowance must be paid.
  • Meals: Employers may deduct meal times from worked hours, but only when the meal period is uninterrupted, and the employee is not required to perform any duties.

These rules may only apply when an agreement is in place between the employer and employee. Without an agreement, an employer may not be allowed to deduct any time that is spent on-duty.


Police are often obligated to perform certain types of pre and post-shift duties beyond their typical activities. These duties may include firearm maintenance, roll call, or briefings. Police must be paid for these duties. In most cases, they must be paid overtime if performing these duties requires them to exceed normal work hours.
Some police roles, such as dog handlers, require officers to perform their duties from home. The time spent caring for dogs at home, including their training, grooming, and feeding, must be compensated as worked time. It must be counted as overtime if performing those duties exceeds 40 hours in a week.

Examples of Violations

Government employee overtime violations can take many different forms. The following violations may be used to deprive government employees of overtime they’ve earned:

Abuse of Exemptions

A government employer may abuse the definitions of FLSA exempt employees to declare that you are exempt from the overtime pay laws when you are not. This is referred to as “misclassification” and it can have a substantial impact on your overall compensation. The difference between getting paid time and one-half for overtime hours and not receiving such premium pay can be significant.  

Working Through Unpaid Meal Periods

Numerous claims have been brought by federal agency employees as the result of being pressured or induced to continue working during their off the clock meal periods. When employees are not able or allowed to take uninterrupted breaks where they are relieved of all duties, such time is compensable and they are entitled to additional overtime or comp time. Such claims are common in healthcare settings. 

Averaging of Different Workweeks

Most non-exempt government employees are entitled to overtime pay every time the hours in a workweek exceeds 40. However, some employers may attempt to deny your overtime by averaging your worked hours in one week across multiple weeks.

For example, if you worked 48 hours in one week and then 30 the next, your employer might attempt to deny your overtime by recording that you work 39 hours both weeks. All of your hours would be accounted for, but you would no longer be eligible for overtime.

Denial of Owed Wages

Your employer may not attempt to manipulate your hours. Instead, they may properly record your hours but refuse to compensate them as overtime.

Do You need A Government Employee Overtime Pay Attorney?

If you have been denied overtime that you have earned while working for a government or federal agency, a government employee overtime attorney may be able to help. Attorneys who focus on this area of the law have experience they can use to help you recover your lost wages.