Federal Employee Pay Limits

Biweekly Limitations on Premium Pay

Section 1114 of Public Law 107-107 modified the biweekly and annual pay limits on premium pay under 5 U.S.C. 5547, removed the separate premium pay limitation for law enforcement officers, and provided agencies with authority to waive the biweekly premium pay limitation for employees performing work critical to the mission of the agency.

Title 5 U.S.C. 5547(a) provides that an employee, including a law enforcement officer, may receive premium pay in a pay period to the extent that the aggregate of basic pay and premium pay for the pay period does not exceed the greater of the biweekly rate for (1) GS-15, step 10 (including any applicable special salary rate or locality rate of pay), or (2) Level V of the Executive Schedule.

Title 5 U.S.C. 5547(b) provides that the biweekly premium pay cap in section 5547(a) does not apply in any pay period during which an employee, including a law enforcement officer, receives premium pay for work in connection with an emergency (including a wildfire emergency) that involves a direct threat to life or property. The amendment clarifies that work in connection with an emergency includes work performed in the aftermath of the emergency. Such employees may receive premium pay to the extent that the aggregate of basic pay and premium pay for the calendar year does not exceed the greater of the annual rate for (1) GS-15, step 10 (including any applicable special salary rate or locality rate of pay), or (2) Level V of the Executive Schedule.

Title 5 U.S.C. 5547(b) also provides the head of an agency with discretionary authority to waive the biweekly premium pay limitation in Section 5547(a) for an employee, including a law enforcement officer, who receives premium pay to perform work critical to the mission of the agency.

Such employees may receive premium pay to the extent that the aggregate of basic pay and premium pay for the calendar year does not exceed the greater of the annual rate for (1) GS-15, step 10 (including any applicable special salary rate or locality rate of pay), or (2) Level V of the Executive Schedule.

The following types of premium pay remain subject to a biweekly limitation when other premium payments are subject to an annual limitation:

  • standby duty pay under 5 U.S.C. 5545(c)(1);
  • administratively uncontrollable overtime pay under 5 U.S.C. 5545(c)(2);
  • availability pay for criminal investigators under 5 U.S.C. 5545a; and
  • overtime pay for hours in the regular tour of duty of a firefighter covered by 5 U.S.C. 5545b.

Note: The biweekly pay limitation in 5 U.S.C. 5547 is also a ceiling on compensatory time off.

Compensatory time off is deemed to be merely an alternative form of payment for overtime work. As such, the value of an hour of compensatory time off is equal to the overtime hourly rate that is payable in dollars. Thus, the number of hours for which an employee may receive monetary overtime pay is also the number of hours of compensatory time off that may be credited in a pay period. An employee may not exceed the biweekly pay limitation by choosing compensatory time off as a substitute for monetary overtime pay.

Aggregate Pay Limits on Premium Pay

An aggregate limitation on pay limits the total amount of allowances, differentials, bonuses, awards, or other similar payments an employee may receive in a calendar year, when combined with the employee’s basic pay. Payments in excess of the aggregate limitation (other than basic pay) must be deferred and are generally paid as a lump-sum payment at the beginning of the following calendar year.

The aggregate limitation on pay for members of the Senior Executive Service and employees in senior level or senior scientific or technical positions covered by a certified performance appraisal system is the total annual compensation payable to the Vice President under 3 U.S.C. 104 on the last day of the calendar year.

The aggregate limitation on pay for other covered employees is the rate for Level I of the Executive Schedule on the last day of the calendar year. Certain executive branch employees may be excluded from the aggregate limitation on pay under 5 U.S.C. 5307 by other laws.

Under 5 U.S.C. 5547, an authority renewed yearly, agencies may waive annual premium pay limitations, up to the Vice President’s salary, for employees performing work related to an operation in response to a Presidentially declared emergency or who are assigned to certain overseas duties. See CPM 2015-06 at www.chcoc.gov/transmittals.

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