11: Compensation and Payroll


Swarthmore, like most other employers, is subject to federal laws that govern salary and wage activity. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) sets the minimum wage rate and defines whether a position is entitled to overtime compensation. Staff positions at Swarthmore are grouped into position categories for a number of purposes, such as administering salaries and benefits and creating various information and reports. According to FLSA legal guidelines, staff positions are categorized as either "exempt" or "non-exempt."

Exempt Staff Positions

Exempt staff positions are those that are exempt from certain provisions of the FLSA and are not entitled to overtime pay. These positions generally include administrators, managers, and professionals (including faculty). Staff members in exempt positions receive a fixed weekly salary, which is paid on a monthly basis. The work of exempt staff is evaluated and compensated on outcomes accomplished. When the occasion warrants, exempt employees work beyond the hours that offices are open for business.

Non-Exempt (Hourly) Staff Positions

For staff positions that are defined by law as non-exempt, the College is required to keep hourly time records and calculates pay on an hourly basis. All paraprofessional, technical, clerical, secretarial, skilled craft, service, and maintenance positions are classified under the FLSA as non-exempt. Such positions are entitled to overtime pay at 1-1/2 times the employee's regular pay rate for all hours beyond 40 in a work week. Paid time off hours such as vacation, sick, holiday and compensatory time count toward the 40-hour threshold for overtime eligibility.

Types of Employment Status

There are three types of staff employment status at Swarthmore: regular, temporary, and limited term employment.

Regular — positions are ongoing positions with no defined ending date for the position and no specified term. Most positions within the College are considered to be "regular."

Temporary — positions are for assignments of a specific, time-limited duration of six months or less. Individuals in temporary positions are not eligible for benefits.

Limited-term — positions are expected to exist for a period longer than six months and for a defined period, e.g., a three-year Mellon grant. There are no contracts or guarantees of continued employment, either within the limited term or when the term ends. Except for certain grant-funded positions, limited term positions are treated like regular staff positions for purposes of benefits eligibility and vacation, holiday, and sick time accrual.

Full-Time and Part-Time Positions — Under any of the employment categories above (regular, temporary, or limited term), you may be employed in a full-time or part-time capacity. Full-time staff positions are positions of .75 FTE or greater and part-time staff positions are those positions of less than .75 FTE.

As-Needed Positions — A number of departments maintain rosters of part-time staff members who work on an as-needed basis. These occasional workers may have an ongoing relationship with a department, although no single work assignment should exceed six months of continuous employment. They are employed as part-time temporary staff.

Position Classifications

Swarthmore is a complex organization, with many different staff position titles. We use an evaluation system to analyze positions and to organize them into position classifications. This helps us be competitive with other employers in the labor market and be consistent within Swarthmore itself.

Positions are evaluated using a number of potential factors such as education, experience, content expertise, technological complexity, welfare of others, organizational impact, internal and external communications, budget responsibility, freedom of action, supervision of others, physical effort, and physical work environment. Positions that are similar in terms of these factors are grouped into the same or similar pay grades.

Pay Grades and Pay Ranges

Positions that are grouped into a given pay grade have a "range" of pay that is appropriate for the types of positions in that group. The pay range reflects the overall value of those positions to the College, as well as local, regional, and national salary information that is studied by Swarthmore each year. Each grade falls into a pay range with a minimum, midpoint, and a maximum. Your initial pay rate reflects a combination of the pay grade and individual qualifications.

Should your salary reach the maximum of your pay grade, annual increases (see Salary Increase Programs below) will take the form of a one time cash award, instead of an increase to your base pay. When your salary falls below the maximum of your pay grade, you would once again be eligible for annual salary increases. In any given year, a combination of increase to base and cash award may be combined, in order to maximize the reward for good performance while maintaining equity in the grading and salary structure.

Salary Increase Programs

Swarthmore's administration and Board of Managers makes decisions each year about adjustments to Swarthmore's annual operating budget. The budget includes compensation of faculty and staff, including salaries and benefits. Decisions about compensation levels are based on economic and market conditions and on organizational needs. Neither general increases to the budget, nor individual salary raises, are automatic. Decisions about increases take into account a number of factors, including the external marketplace within which we compete to hire and retain employees, internal equity among comparable positions within the College, and individual performance. When salary adjustments are warranted, it has been College practice to make most such adjustments with the start of its fiscal year, which is currently July 1. Employees who have been in their positions for a short period of time (less than six months) may not be eligible for July 1st increases. Please check with your supervisor or Human Resources.

Job Descriptions

Each job at Swarthmore should have a job description that outlines the general purpose of the job. The supervisor must define the particular dimensions of each position. And, since all positions evolve over time, departments are encouraged to review duties of positions annually to make sure that the position description accurately reflects its current responsibilities and is appropriately classified.

Promotion Policy

Promotional opportunities are most common when an employee moves from one position to another in a different pay grade. Staff who are interested in a posted position are encouraged to apply through the Human Resources Web site.

Occasionally, opportunities for professional advancement occur that do not require the employee to leave their department for a totally different position. This happens when changes in the needs of the department provide an opportunity for an individual to assume higher level job responsibilities. Situations where a promotion may be warranted include:

  • An individual is designated new responsibilities outside their current job description which require higher level skills and are more complex than the responsibilities in the original position.
  • A departmental reorganization occurs which results in a shift to higher-level responsibilities.
  • Departmental career ladders that allow promotions based on demonstrated proficiency over time leading to an expanded scope of responsibilities.

Promotions depend on significant changes in job duties, rather than changes in an employees' skill set or length of time in position. They reflect departmental needs, not the need to recognize or reward an employee. In those cases, Human Resources will work with supervisors to find an appropriate way to recognize the individual in question.

The promotional process begins with a conversation among the supervisor or department head, the appropriate VP/Dean and the Human Resources department. After agreement is reached that a change in job duties for an individual is warranted, a new position description will be developed and a pay grade will be determined. A move is considered a promotion only if the new responsibilities place the position in a higher pay grade.


Swarthmore College pays all non-exempt staff on a bi-weekly basis. Your supervisor can provide you with a list of paydays and the dates time sheets are due. All exempt staff are paid on the 15th of each month for work performed between the 1st and the 30th of that month.

Receiving Your Paycheck

You can receive your paycheck in any one of three ways:

  1. Direct Deposit
    You may have your paycheck deposited directly to your personal checking account. Virtually all of the banks and credit unions in the region accept direct deposits from Swarthmore. Most staff choose direct deposit because of its convenience. If you choose this option, you will receive a "Deposit Advice Form" through your department on payday, which gives you a record of your itemized paycheck deductions. If you do not receive your Deposit Advice Form on the appropriate payday, notify your supervisor immediately.

  2. Delivered to Your Department
    You may arrange to pick up your paycheck from your department. Your supervisor can tell you how and when checks are available for pick-up in your area.

  3. Mailed to Your Home
    You may have your paycheck mailed to your home address. Depending on U.S. Postal Service, there may be a delay in receiving your paycheck.

Deductions From Your Paycheck

Swarthmore deducts federal, state, and local income taxes. In addition, you may choose to have deductions taken from your paycheck for a number of things, such as health care premiums, retirement contributions, computer loans or Transit Check.

Swarthmore has the right to deduct money from your paycheck for obligations owed to the College or others, such as unpaid fines for Swarthmore traffic violations, returned checks, and legally imposed levies and garnishments made against your salary. If you have any questions about garnishments and levies, contact the Payroll Office.

You should review each paycheck or deposit notice. If you believe there is an error, or if you have a question about your pay or deductions, bring it to your supervisor's attention immediately.

Awards, Prizes and Gifts

Distributing service awards, wellness incentive program prizes and gift cards/certificates is a way for the College and managers to reward or thank employees. Any award, prize, or gift issued to an employee for improvement suggestions, attendance achievements, or any other work related achievement are generally considered taxable under Federal Tax laws and are subject to withholding since they are made in connection with and as a result of an employment relationship. Limited exceptions are described below.

The College relies on managers and supervisors to follow the procedures below to ensure that awards, prizes, and gifts are properly accounted for and any required taxes are recorded and withheld. It is the responsibility of the manager issuing the award, gift or prize to notify the employee of the possible tax implications.

Cash Awards, Prizes or Gifts

Any cash award, prize or gift is taxable and must be processed through the Payroll Office. Cash awards should be recorded on the Request for Additional Pay Form and sent to the Payroll Office. Gift cards, gift certificates, prizes and gifts must be reported on the Award, Prize, and Gift Form.

Please note that occasional gifts (or prizes) of merchandise (e.g., turkeys, flowers, bookstore items and apparel) that are of nominal value are not taxable and need not be reported. However, items of more than a nominal value are taxable and must be reported to the Payroll Office prior to issuance on the Award, Prize, and Gift Form. If you are unsure whether a gift or prize needs to be reported for tax purposes, please contact the Payroll Office.

Forms should be submitted before the award, prize or gift is given to the employee. Within the next payroll processing cycle the face value of the award, prize, gift or certificate will be added to the employee's paycheck and the required taxes will be withheld.

Both the Additional Pay Form and Award, Prize, and Gift Form are available on the HR web site or at the Payroll and HR offices.

Length of Service or Safety Awards

A length of service or safety achievement award may generally be excluded from federal wages if:

  1. It is in the form of tangible personal property (not cash).
  2. It is given as part of a meaningful presentation.
  3. It does not exceed a value of $1,600 per employee per year.
  4. Length of service awards must be for at least five years of service and cannot be received more often than once every five years. These awards are distributed by Human Resources.

Guidelines for Additional Pay (Add Pay)

When employees at the College are asked to temporarily take on extra or different duties, they are typically, although not always, offered additional pay (add pay) in consideration. The purpose of these guidelines is to create a standard practice in these situations.

Opportunities for duties outside an employee's typical responsibilities vary widely, and are not easily reduced to a common formula or a single solution. In many cases, additional duties are more appropriately seen as an opportunity for growth and professional development than a situation for which the employer should consider additional compensation.

In those cases were it seems appropriate to recognize an employee who has stepped up to new or additional tasks in a way that has recognizable value for the institution, the following guidelines should be helpful.

  1. Assess each situation prior to discussing additional pay with the employee to determine how the situation will truly affect the employee. In some cases, the employee may have capacity in their schedule to take on new tasks without the need for additional compensation, in others, redistributing tasks so that an employee can devote themselves to the new duties may be the best route.
  2. Rewards for special projects and temporary additional duties should be set at a flat dollar amount that reflects the effort involved and the value to the institution, rather than a percentage of salary. The amount of the add pay can vary widely, from hundreds of dollars to thousands of dollars, as the situation dictates.
  3. Rewards for acting duties should be determined by looking at the following variables:
    1. Whether the employee will be assuming full or partial responsibilities of the open position and the current work load of the open position.
    2. Whether the employee's normal job duties will be redistributed.
    3. The differential between the employee's current salary and the salary of the position in which they are acting.

These decisions should be made jointly by the appropriate manager and Human Resources in order to ensure equity and consistency.

Time Records for Hourly Staff

Your department is required by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to keep accurate records of and pay you for the time you actually work. For this reason, it is extremely important that you and your department keep accurate time records, by means of a time clock or a timesheet. If you don't report your time accurately, it may lead to disciplinary action, including possible dismissal. If at any time you believe your paycheck does not correctly reflect the time you worked and reported, let your supervisor know immediately.

You may work in a department that uses a time clock with time cards or computerized records. It is your responsibility to clock in at the beginning of each shift, clock out for unpaid meal breaks and back in when the meal break is over, and clock out when you leave for the day. You must also clock out whenever you leave work before the end of your shift, such as for scheduled medical appointments.

If your department does not have time clocks, you will record the time you have worked on a timesheet. Your supervisor will explain to you the procedures in your department for filling out and submitting timesheets. You should record your actual work time, even if it is slightly different than your work schedule. You should always sign the timesheet to certify your record of time worked is accurate and have your supervisor sign to approve the hours you recorded.

Failure to keep accurate daily time records may constitute falsification of College time records and subject you to disciplinary action, including immediate dismissal.


Sometimes projects and priorities may require extra work beyond your normal schedule. Your supervisor can rearrange work schedules and can require overtime when necessary to meet the operating needs of your department.

Hourly staff are paid 1-½ times their regular rate of pay for all hours worked over 40 in a work week. For purposes of overtime calculation vacation, sick leave and holidays are considered hours worked.

If you have work that you feel needs extra time and effort, check with your supervisor first before working beyond the end of your regular shift. Some departments don't budget for overtime costs, so you should never work overtime without prior approval from your supervisor. If you work unauthorized overtime, you may be subject to disciplinary action.

Monthly staff are exempt from the overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). They are paid on a salaried basis and do not receive additional pay for hours worked beyond 40 in a work week.

Compensatory ("Comp") Time

Many non-exempt staff at Swarthmore work regular schedules of 35, rather than 40, hours. Hours beyond 35, but not exceeding 40, can be paid at straight time rates or converted to comp time. Comp time earned between 35 and 40 hours must be used by the end of the next pay period. Comp time earned which is not used within the next pay period will be paid in that pay period.

College policy requires that all hours worked over 40 hours in a week must be paid as over time hours. Compensatory time is not available.

Exempt staff do not receive overtime pay or comp time when they work additional time beyond their normal expected schedule. Exempt positions may have greater scheduling flexibility than non-exempt positions but compensatory time for hours worked beyond 40 in a week is not relevant or appropriate.