I had a question about the implications of being a salaried exempt employee, and the practical application of this employment status from an HR/timekeeping perspective.

I am a salaried employee, paid semi-monthly, so my salary is divided by 24, and my paycheck is consistent with that amount each time, regardless of how many working hours fall within the pay period (80, 88, 96, etc). This is in line with my understanding of what being an exempt salaried employee means.

As a salaried employee, the part that seems incorrectly implemented is my company's timekeeping system. For a given pay period (lets say it contains 88 hours), it requires us to account for all 88 hours, thru a combination of actual worked hours or pto, training, etc. If we do not account for all hours (88 in this case) for the pay period, the system won't allow us to submit it.

That means that there isn't a scenario under which a salaried employee can account for less than the pay periods hours and still be paid the same amount, which is what I thought being salaried meant. On the flip side, in situations where I have worked a few more hours than the pay period contained, my paycheck was the same amount.

Am I wrong in thinking that, as a salaried employee, we should be allowed to submit fewer hours than the pay period includes?

  • What has become of the extra hours if you log less than the payroll period's 88?
    – jwh20
    Feb 24, 2023 at 2:19
  • @jwh20 the system doesn't allow you to log less than the 88 hours. Feb 24, 2023 at 2:55
  • 7
    By your vocabulary, I would assume this is the US? Please add a country tag. What you describe is normal where I live, but I guess it's not for you, so at least we know one thing: it's a matter that needs you to disclose your country, so we can answer based on that.
    – nvoigt
    Feb 24, 2023 at 6:48
  • While I don't understand your company's payment system, don't you have a contract on how many hours you have to work?
    – guest
    Feb 27, 2023 at 16:23

3 Answers 3


Am I wrong in thinking that, as a salaried employee, we should be allowed to submit fewer hours than the pay period includes?

You are wrong, depending on what you mean by "should".

Your timekeeping system has nothing to do with your pay. As you indicated, your pay is fixed. The timekeeping system is specific to your company and allows them to internally track the hours spent per person, per category, and likely per project.

Just because you are salaried, that doesn't mean the company must allow you to submit a timesheet with as few hours as you prefer.

Many companies have timesheet systems like this. Some don't. And for those that do, some are more strict than others.

I worked for one company where top management expected all of their software people to submit at least 43 hours of project work per week. If they didn't, it was supposed to reflect badly on them at review time. In reality, middle managers (like me) often had their people fudge the time charged by submitting non-working time to "Training" or similar categories when they needed to.

The system also meant that you weren't supposed to charge more hours against a particular project than the project manager had budgeted. So even though you may have worked extra hours, you were motivated to omit them from your timesheet.

It was a ridiculous system, IMHO. And a major source of friction. "Should" it have worked differently? Yes, from my viewpoint. But upper management made the decision, not me. And they were within their right to do so, as long as the salary was paid correctly.

  • thanks for the answer. I could understand if there was some threshold baked in, for example, you have to account for no less than 5 fewer hours than the pay period included. It just seems like the way the system is setup now, the company is ensuring that any difference in the number of hours accounted for during year will always be more than the baseline, never fewer. So in that sense, the 'regardless of how many hours are worked' aspect of being salaried really only allows for working more hours, not less. Feb 24, 2023 at 20:55

How and whether the company tracks time is entirely up to it. If it wants this level of detail, for whatever reason, it can ask. The fact that it's annoying does not make it illegal, immoral, or fattening.

Some employers have gotten rid of timecard systems entirely for salaried employees. Some haven't. Sometimes it depends on what you're doing -- if you're working on something with hours being billed to the customer, directly or indirectly, those numbers may not affect you but definitely affect the company. Sometimes it varies by management chain.

I dealt with multiple versions, on and off, through my decades with my employer.

It really isn't worth wasting emotional energy over. Just fill it out to the best accuracy you can, as quickly as you can, and turn it in. If you aren't in a position to set policy, you comply with policy or find another job.

  • I assume this answer applies to the US? Otherwise, most European countries have a number of laws and regulations about corporate time tracking so your first sentence doesn't hold.
    – quarague
    Feb 25, 2023 at 8:09
  • Yes, my answer assumes the US.
    – keshlam
    Feb 25, 2023 at 12:08

It's not unheard of for companies to interpret flexible hours as you can work more than the nominal amount (say 40 hours a week) but you CANNOT work less. Maybe that is what is happening here.

However, you should ask your manager what code to use for "time off in lieu" or similar. In other words, if you work 80 hours one week to get an important job completed on time and you want to take a day off in the next week to make up for it how should you report that on the system.

There are often such codes, however I would always ask for approval before using one. In some cases the company doesn't really want you working longer hours either so you might get told not to do the extra work instead. They might also only be willing to let you take time to make up for extra work in exceptional circumstances. If the company has set up systems so you can work extra hours but can't work less to make up for that then you should think about what sort of company they are.

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