Wednesday, November 23, 2016

FLSA overtime rule: Federal judge issues injunction, Illinois suspends its FLSA increases

In the news this week, you may have heard that a federal judge suspended implementation of the new Department of Labor FLSA rule regarding overtime thresholds, the one that would have made academic institutions either 1) pay their postdoctoral fellows at or above $47,456 or 2) track their hours and pay overtime for any hours more than 40 hours a week.

In my opinion, this best place to look for up-to-date information on this is Gary McDowell's Twitter feed. He's the head of Future of Research, a non-profit working on scientific labor issues. They are tracking the wildly divergent responses from academia on this issue; decisions are being made on day-by-day (if not hour-by-hour) basis. 

Most relevant to readers of this blog is the announcement that the University of Illinois system is suspending the planned salary increases to postdoctoral fellows. 

As far as what may come, I believe all this legal wrangling is moot. The House of Representatives had already made some noises about suspending the FLSA rule, and it is my strong presumption that, on inauguration, President Trump will cancel this rule on the first day in office. That said, we have no real sense as to President Trump's policies on the overtime issue. 

I also believe that academic institutions have already figured out how they will deal with this for the coming calendar year, and that the more financially stable institutions (read: private universities) will keep those planned increases, and public universities will choose not to increase their postdoc salaries, or will require tracking of hours worked above 40 hours a week. But who really knows? 

4 comments:

  1. I assume MIT will still honor it since they sent out the new wage scale for us 10 days ago effective December 1. Yearly wage increases are now almost non-existent compared to a $2k bump under the previous system.

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  2. Just curious Chemjobber, if your "belief" that academic institutions have already figured this out is based in fact, or wild speculation? My institution, a state institution, already implemented the new salary increase requirement for all post-docs. Maybe they will change - post-docs hired this past summer all have the new salary and as of Thursday, all others will as well. So, it's not just the "financially stable institutions" (and by the way, not all private universities are financially stable), that are moving forward. You realize the university doesn't pay most post-docs, right? It's the PI's grants that pay post-docs.

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    1. Inartfully worded. The federal judge's decision came just as all institutions were supposed to have decided what they were planning on doing (i.e. the December 1 deadline.) For example, Illinois just reversed its increases (although they may be uniquely vulnerable.)

      While the bulk of postdoc salaries come from PI grants, it seems to me that its institutions that are helping out with the increases for the time being.

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    2. It is the PI's grants that pay the salary, but the postdocs themselves are employees of the university. My large, Midwestern, State University emailed employees (myself included) about the new pay scale on 10/10/16, and I haven't heard since.

      Something that I think was overlooked in the initial discussions on this topic is that postdocs are classified as an overtime-exempt position. I don't think it is as simple as choosing to count overtime instead of giving a pay increase. The position would have to be completely reclassified in the system. That seems very unlikely to happen.

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