Last night, the Department of Labor issued a new rule on overtime pay. Effective December 1, 2016, the criteria under which employees will be eligible for overtime pay will be:
- The salary threshold for eligibility for overtime pay will rise from $455 per week to $913 per week ($47,476 per year).
- The threshold will automatically update every three years, based on wage growth over time.
- Overtime protections for salaried workers entitled to overtime will be strengthened.
And finally, the one that’s of immense importance to our membership:
- Postdoctoral fellows will not be exempt from the rule and will be eligible for overtime pay.
These rule changes are not unexpected. In the fall, ASBMB submitted comments to the DOL on this topic. ASBMB recommended that postdocs not be excluded from the rule, but called on the DOL to delay implementation beyond the original October 1, 2016 date so that researchers, who already have tight budgets, to adjust to the new overtime rules. They could make adjustments through either a reduction in the hours a postdoctoral fellow works, or preferably, increase the pay, ASBMB called for a three-year delay in implantation of the rule.
In response to yesterday’s rule change, National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins and DOL Secretary Thomas Perez published an op-ed in which they acknowledge the time has come for the scientific community to increase postdoctoral pay. They wrote, “Our nation should embrace the fact that increasing the salary threshold for postdocs represents an opportunity to encourage more of our brightest young minds to consider choosing careers in science. Biomedical science has never been more exciting or promising than now, and we need to do all we can to support the next generation of scientists.”
Citing ASBMB’s recent paper on sustaining the biomedical research in their piece, Collins and Perez outline the case for increasing pay. They acknowledge the role the NIH must play to ensure a smooth transition to adhering with the new rule. Specifically, Collins has indicated that the NIH will increase the awards for postdoctoral National Research Service Awards, the mechanism by which many postdocs are funded today.