Acquiring and retaining great co-workers is a daily dilemma for most all contractors.  Many companies have tried signing bonuses, extended benefits, better hours, etc. but these are only the tip of the iceberg.  Great companies have some type of performance based compensation plan that rewards great co-workers and penalizes poor co-workers.  This article will discuss only the relationships among performance based pay, labor laws and overtime.


Performance based pay has been around for many years but has been limited to sales reps through commissions.  Today, contractors are taking this key concept and pushing it to field personnel.  Performance based pay is based on the premise that if certain standards are met, the co-worker earns compensation.  Typically performance based pay is based not on the hours actually worked, but the quality and efficiency of the job.


Federal and state labor laws allow for performance based compensation for hourly workers, but overtime still must be paid if the co-worker works overtime.  Since service techs and installers are hourly workers they are defined as non-exempt employees.  Non-exempt employees are hourly workers, must be paid overtime as defined by state labor boards, and must keep a time card for all hours worked during the pay period.


The Department of Labor provides a simple formula for the calculation of correct compensation.  The formula consists of three values: Total Compensation Earned for the Pay Period, Total Hours worked during the Pay Period, and the Average Hourly Pay for the Pay Period.  This formula must be done manually or by a computer each pay period to calculate correct compensation or wages.  Even though the contractor may not use Performance Based Pay (PBP) in the company, this calculation still is performed each pay period.  It is the essence of overtime pay guidelines.


Total Compensation is defined as all taxable wages earned during the pay period.  This includes normal wages, bonuses, commissions, incentives, etc that are taxable.  Remember, this is not normal compensation, it is TOTAL compensation.  This Total Compensation can come through normal hourly wages and bonuses or some type of PBP.  If you pay a technician $40 per service call and he does 20 calls per pay period, his total compensation would be $40 x 20 or $800.  If you pay a technician $16 per hour and he works 40 hours, his total compensation is $16 x 40 or $600.  Compensation is compensation is compensation.  If the monies earned through normal hourly channels, bonuses or PBP are taxable payroll wages, they must be included in Total Compensation.


Total Hours worked includes all hours on the job or on the premises.  Time starts, typically, when an hourly worker drives up to your office or drives to their first job or call.  Labor boards call this the Primary or Secondary office location.  Time does not start when they leave the house, because that is commuting expense.  Time starts when they hit an office location.  The time card is completed during the pay period by the worker or the office and approved for payment.  Total hours includes all hours on the job which can be regular or overtime hours.


At the end of the pay period, the company must divide Total Compensation by Total Hours Worked to get Average Hourly Wage.  The average hourly wage must be equal to or above the State’s minimum wage law and the average hourly wage must be used to calculated overtime pay if any overtime was worked.  Some examples might clarify this more.


Joe the technician has total compensation through incentives, PBP and wages of $1000 for the pay period of one week.  During this weekly period, he worked 40 hours per his time card.  Divide $1000 earned by 40 hours worked to get an average hourly wage of $25 per hour.  $25 per hour is higher than the equal wage for the State, so minimum wage requirements have been met.  No overtime was worked as this State defines overtime as “hours worked over 40 per week”.  The paycheck is correct.  Now let’s look at the following week.


The following week Joe really does well and earns total compensation of $1200 for the week.  He worked 50 hours because he was on call and did some work also on Saturday.  Divide $1200 compensation by 50 hours worked.  His average hourly wage is $24 per hour which is above minimum wage.  However, since he worked overtime we must pay Joe additional monies.  We paid Joe $24 per hour for each of the 10 hours he worked overtime, but we need to come back and pay him the half time differential for those hours.  He worked 10 hours overtime X ½ ($24) so he deserves another $120 on top of the $1200 he was paid.  His correct pay should be $1320.


This is the first hurdle in the Performance Based Pay debate.  PBP is not a way to get exempt from paying overtime wages.  The company still has to compensate the individual based on hours worked and average hourly wages.  Next, Performance Based Pay provides incentives for great workers to earn more monies than they do now.  Today we probably put a floor and ceiling on wages and regardless of performance, the field person cannot escape the ceiling.  PBP can take away the ceiling and pay individuals any amount of monies they are willing to earn.  PBP also creates a system of compensation that rewards and penalizes.  Instead of an owner or manager giving raises and bonuses or none, the PBP system accepts the challenge.  The system is fair so if field personnel take advantage of it, they will make more money.  If field personnel do not take advantage of it, they will make less.


In my opinion as a national business consultant, I believe every company should implement some form of PBP.  The only way most companies reward field personnel is through a few commissions or by working more hours.  Wouldn’t it be great for a company to offer PBP plans so personnel can work less hours for more money?  If personnel work less on jobs, more jobs could be done during the normal workday instead of after hours.  Most companies that have gone to PBP actually reduce their overtime hours and do more jobs.