Under new revisions to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), universities, teaching hospitals, and other institutions that employ postdocs have a choice: they can carefully track their fellows’ hours and pay overtime, or they can raise their salaries to levels above the threshold, thereby qualifying them for exemption. Biomedical science, by its very nature, is not work that neatly falls into hourly units or shifts. So, from our vantage point, it seems that the only option consistent with the professional nature of scientific work is to increase salaries above the current income threshold of $23,660, which was set in 2004 and has failed to keep up with inflation. Under the new rule, the threshold will be increased to $47,476 effective December 1, 2016. The Department of Labor’s FLSA revisions will make more than 4 million currently exempt U.S. workers eligible for overtime pay, unless their salaries are raised, including an estimated 37,000 to 40,000 junior scientists (who typically have a Ph.D.) in biomedical research and labor agencies.
Francis S. Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Thomas E. Perez, U.S. Secretary of Labor, have pledged their full support of the increased salary threshold for postdocs.