The FLSA and postdocs: One month to go, and what do we know?

The FLSA and postdocs: One month to go, and what do we know?

On Dec 1st, the threshold at which salaried workers receive overtime payment for working more than 40 hours per week will increase from $23,660 to $47,476 per year, under updates to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Institutions have the choice to either increase the minimum salary for postdocs to $47,476, or to classify postdocs as hourly workers. So what are they doing?

 

We recently wrote a blogpost for Addgene outlining changes we had discovered so far. In the intervening 10 days, and with one month to go, we would like to further summarize information gathered for the FLSA and postdocs resourceWe found that after checking with 123 of the 340 institutions listed as employing postdocs, representing ~85% of the postdoctoral workforce, about 40% of the estimated postdoctoral workforce is employed at institutions stated that they will be raising salaries starting December 1 2016. Only 1% are at institutions that are focused on tracking hours and 1% are at institutions allowing hours tracking while promoting (but not mandating) salary raising, and 40% are at institutions that have either told us they have not decided, have no information available yet, and/or have not yet responded to a request for information. 

 

Percentage of the postdoctoral population at institutions implementing various plans for FLSA Oct 21.

Percentage of the postdoctoral population at institutions implementing various plans for FLSA Oct 21.

 

At this stage, we had only checked 36% of institutions (although covering 85% of the postdoctoral workforce) but of those we had checked, 41% are planning to raise salaries, and 53% have no public decision yet available as of October 21 2016.

 

Percentage of  institutions (which we have checked) implementing various plans for FLSA Oct 21.

Percentage of institutions (which we have checked) implementing various plans for FLSA Oct 21.

 

 

New data as of October 31st

Repeating this analysis only 10 days later, but a month before compliance is required, we are now able to discuss data covering 97.5% of the estimated postdoctoral workforce, or every institution listed in the NSF dataset with > 35 postdocs in 2014.

Out of these, 51% of the estimated postdoctoral workforce is at institutions that have stated they are raising salaries, up from 40% 10 days ago; 1.5% is at institutions that are focused on tracking hours, up from 1%, and 4% is at institutions allowing hours tracking while promoting (but not mandating) salary raising, up from 1%. However, still 41% are at institutions that have either told us they have not decided, have no information available, and/or have not yet responded to a request for information, remaining similar to our 40% figure 10 days ago.

 

Percentage of the postdoctoral population at institutions implementing various plans for FLSA Oct 31.

Percentage of the postdoctoral population at institutions implementing various plans for FLSA Oct 31.

 

We have now checked 56% of institutions, and of those checked, 35.5% are planning to raise salaries, and 57% have no public decision yet available. Therefore even with the addition of 10 days time, and now one month away from Dec 1st, we have found more institutions do not yet have publicly available information on their compliance with FLSA with respect to postdocs.

 

Percentage of  institutions (which we have checked) implementing various plans for FLSA Oct 31.

Percentage of institutions (which we have checked) implementing various plans for FLSA Oct 31.

 

 

 

A case in point: Boston postdocs

To illustrate the point of what postdocs may know at this point in time, with one month to go, we take Boston postdocs as an example. The Boston Postdoctoral Association has been taking an active role in gathering institutional information and preparing resources on the FLSA for its members. There are 14 academic postdoctoral associations in the Boston Postdoctoral Association and we list them here along with the numbers of postdocs from the NSF dataset we use (where known: “Harvard” and “MIT” are each listed as a single institution) and current estimates of a postdoctoral population of 9,000 in Boston:

  • Boston Children’s Hospital (BCH)
    • Raising salary: Unknown number out of 5,761 postdocs at “Harvard”
  • Boston University and Boston University Medical Campus (BU/BUMC)
    • Raising salary: 444 postdocs
  • Brandeis University (Brandeis)
    • Raising salary: 102 postdocs
  • Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH)
    • Unknown
  • Broad Institute (Broad)
    • Unknown
  • Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI)
    • Salary already $50,000: Unknown number out of 5,761 postdocs at “Harvard”
  • Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Dental Medicine (HMS/HSDM)
    • Decision not yet made/available
  • Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (Chan)
    • Unknown
  • Harvard University (Harvard)
    • Raising salary: Unknown number out of 5,761 postdocs at “Harvard”
  • Joslin Diabetes Center (Joslin)
    • Unknown
  • Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary (MEEI)
    • Unknown
  • Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH)
    • Unknown
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
    • Unknown except for Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, which has a salary already of $51,120: Unknown number out of 1,516 at “MIT”
  • Tufts University (Tufts)
    • Raising salary: 194 postdocs
  • Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research (WIBR)
    • Salary already $50,127 (in 2012): Unknown number out of 1,516 at “MIT”

There are only 740 postdocs at institutions where all data is known, out of 9,000. WIBR and the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences cannot be more than a small proportion of the 1,516 at MIT, while Boston Children’s, Dana Farber and Harvard University may be a larger number out of 5,761 but by no means the majority. It could be that as many as ⅔ of postdocs in Boston – a very well-organized group of postdocs already gathering information – are not aware of what their status will be in a month, either because they have not been told, or the institution has not yet made a decision.

 

Discussion of the data collected

We are assuming that all institutions will make information transparently and publicly available, whereas of course there is bound to be a great variation in which institutions publish information on the web or respond to queries for information. Interestingly this does not seem to be linked to the size of the institution: some small institutions have made information available on their website, and some of the largest have not yet made decisions publicly available, and vice versa.

In addition, some institutions are listed as a single institution in the NSF dataset, for example “Harvard” and “MIT” are listed as one institution, and as we have so little data for each (as discussed above) we count them as not having yet made decisions . Combined with previous discussions that the NSF dataset may only approximate postdoc numbers, and this is 2014 data (not up to date), the numbers likely have some degree of variation. However we consider our analysis between the two dates (October 21 and October 31) to be a useful indicator. Also, in contrast to the Council on Governmental Relations report of their August survey, we see a very striking difference in what has been publicly declared compared with private data, both in the level of decisions by this time having been made by reporting institutions (97% vs. our 47%) and the ratio of salary raising to tracking (3:1 vs our 9:1).

We have not yet made a thorough analysis comparing salary reporting by region, or comparing between public and private institutions, however we hope to carry out this analysis as data continues to be collected through December 1st.

Particular thanks to Adriana Bankston who has been researching and contacting institutions to produce a large proportion of this data.

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