The FLSA and postdoc salaries: actions and where things currently stand

The FLSA and postdoc salaries: actions and where things currently stand

If you’ve been following along with out FLSA and postdocs resource, you’ll know that on December 1st, 2016, the threshold at which salaried workers (including all postdocs, regardless of visa or fellowship status) receive overtime payment for working more than 40 hours per week was due to increase from $23,660 to $47,476 per year, under updates to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). This was delayed by an injunction granted November 22nd, 2016 (see here for more information), and the updates were declared invalid on August 31st, 2017.

 

ACTION: There is a new call for comments in a Department of Labor Request for Information here (guidelines for empoyer comments are here). You are able to make comments until September 25th.

 

We have revised our paper on the FLSA and postdocs and this will appear in the next couple of days here (you can see our data from before the injunction in this first version). We tracked how institutions responded to the injunction and removal of a federal mandate for salary raises for postdocs, particularly given that the NIH decided to keep their new NRSA postdoctoral salary levels at the levels set by the FLSA updates.

 

The major finding from our second round of data collection is that around 60% of postdocs are at institutions whose policies have changed to raise salaries, even after the injunction. 5 institutions who originally cancelled plans to raise salaries (University of Michigan, the University of Illinois, Brigham and Women’s (Boston, MA), Iowa State University and Massachusetts General Hospital) have since reversed their plans to varying degrees. You can find out more in the FLSA and postdocs resource under the first tab, “How institutional plans have/have not changed since the injunction”. Our data collection effort has relied on contacting institutions and if you spot any omissions/inaccuracies, please let us know.

 

 

Although the policies may have changed, it is not clear how well-enforced these policies are at institutions, not least as institutional ability to report the number of postdocs is highly variable, and as the legal postdoctoral salary minimum for any postdoc on a research project grant or other funding source with no salary mandate is still $23,660, we are curious not only in institutional policies, but actual salaries. Therefore we are evaluating postdoc salary data, and our ability to collect it, as far as possible, and hope to release this data by November. We have been largely relying on Freedom of Information Requests to public institutions, and have data volunteered from one private institution (Boston University). We would still welcome any datasets that private institutions wish to give – we are asking only for the salary of a postdoc, and the title that that employee (and we count all postdocs, including fellows, as employees) holds.

 

Please comment on the FLSA RFI, and tell us what you think we should be commenting on. And stay tuned for the revised version of Bankston and McDowell, “Monitoring the compliance of the academic enterprise with the Fair Labor Standards Act“.

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