Guest post: Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) injunction and postdocs: one month later

Guest post: Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) injunction and postdocs: one month later

This is a guest post by Adriana Bankston, a volunteer with Future of Research and one of the travel award winners for the Advocating for Science symposium in Boston, 2016.  Adriana has been collecting data directly from institutions as part of this effort.   UPDATE: This post has been updated, the first figure was previously showing institutional plans, not the percentage of the postdoctoral population affected by each change as described in the text.     On December 1st 2016, postdocs working more than 40 hours per week were due to see salary raises from $23,660 to $47,476 per year, according to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) ruling issued by the Department of Labor. At Future of Research, we have been collecting data and documenting the compliance of universities with the FLSA in our online resource. These data were also communicated in a paper published F1000 research in November 2016. To document this compliance periodically, we published subsequent blog posts at one month, 20 days and 10 days prior to the original FLSA implementation date of December 1st. Our data indicated that, at 10 days prior to December 1st, 69% of all postdocs were expected to receive salary raises, 6% of postdocs were to have either salaries raised or hours tracked with no central institutional mandate for either, 3% of postdocs were at institutions focused on allowing hours tracking, and for 22% of postdocs no data had been made publicly available (below).     Complying with the FLSA ruling for such a large percentage of postdocs with 10 days to go was due to have a very positive impact...
Guest post: If They can do it, then…

Guest post: If They can do it, then…

A guest post by Tammy Barnes, Ph.D., postdoc at the University of Michigan and co-chair of the University of Michigan Postdoctoral Association (UMPDA).   I’m a Kentucky gal.  Before I moved to Ann Arbor for work as a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Michigan, all that the word “buckeye” meant to me was a treat to be savored around this very time of year.  These days, however, I have started bleeding a different shade of blue and detesting a darker hue of red.   Two weeks ago, a federal judge issued a court order to block changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) that were intended to take effect on December 1, 2016. These changes would have raised the salary of an individual to $47,476, unless paid overtime.  At the University of Michigan, this act would have positively affected at least 2,400 faculty and staff, including postdoctoral research fellows (often called “postdocs”).  As a result of this recent FLSA court injunction, the University has paused implementing these changes.  In other words, postdocs will remain overworked and underpaid. As one of the 1,400 postdoctoral fellows at the University of Michigan, I have heard countless testimonies from devastated postdocs who have planned for their future based on the FLSA ruling. Therefore, I cannot sit idly knowing that now colleagues will suffer.      My first year as a postdoc, I worked 10+ hours a day, 7 days a week, typical of the position.  I care deeply about my research and am working to make a difference in how we treat obesity and its many co-morbidities, including type 2...
Guest post: Carrot on a Stick: FLSA regulation, postdoc salaries, and the impending confusion

Guest post: Carrot on a Stick: FLSA regulation, postdoc salaries, and the impending confusion

This is a guest post by Dr Sridhar Vedachalam, a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Johns Hopkins Water Institute at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and one of the travel award winners for the Advocating for Science symposium in Boston, 2016.   In May 2016, the Obama administration’s Department of Labor issued a new regulation under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) that raised the threshold for overtime pay from $23,660 to $47,476 per annum. At that time, it was unclear how the new regulation would impact the academic sector that employs nearly 40,000 postdoctoral researchers (or “postdocs”), the vast majority of whom are paid more than the current threshold, but less than the proposed threshold. Within days, Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Labor Secretary Tom Perez wrote an op-ed advocating for  better postdoc salaries, arguing forcefully that not only do postdocs deserve to be paid more as stipulated in the FLSA regulation, but that the research and academic enterprise and the nation stand to benefit from well-compensated researchers.     To comply with the new rules, universities could either raise postdoc salaries, or track their hours to enable overtime payment. Gary McDowell is the Executive Director of the non-profit Future of Research, an organization that works with junior scientists to improve the scientific research enterprise. When the FLSA regulation came out, he expected all institutions to raise salaries. “This is because it is against the spirit of academia – and frankly, in my opinion, practically impossible – to track postdoctoral hours and pay overtime, as postdocs are often expected to be available to...
Webinar with New York Academy of Sciences on the FLSA and postdocs: Tuesday December 13

Webinar with New York Academy of Sciences on the FLSA and postdocs: Tuesday December 13

On Tuesday December 13th, 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM EST, the New York academy of Sciences will host a webinar: “The Changing Landscape for Postdocs in the US: Potential Implications and Systemic Changes to Support Postdocs in the US Beyond the FLSA Ruling” The speakers will be Dr. Kate Sleeth from the National Postdoctoral Association, Sam Castañeda from University of California Berkeley, and Future of Research Executive Director Dr. Gary McDowell. The webinar, when originally scheduled, was intended to discuss the updates to the Fair Labor Standards Act and their effects on postdoctoral researchers after coming into effect on December 1st, but on November 22nd a preliminary injunction against the updates was granted, and now there is a different landscape in which some institutions are raising salaries as planned, and some are not, as we have been laying out in our resource on the FLSA and postdocs....
FLSA fiasco

FLSA fiasco

On Dec 1st (today), the threshold at which salaried workers 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), affecting all postdoctoral researchers in a non-primarily teaching role regardless of visa or fellowship status.   We had been keeping track of how institutions were implementing the update in our FLSA and postdocs resource and started releasing analyses of the data from late October (see this blogpost in Addgene), published a paper with one month to go at F1000Research, and most recently with 10 days ago, we presented a summary of the latest timepoint in our information-gathering efforts. At the last timepoint, 220 out of 341 institutions with postdocs had no decision on what they were doing available for us to report. However, 69% of the estimated postdoctoral workforce was due to see a salary raise. Some postdocs may have been due to receive a raise depending on their department/PI; and some institutions were moving postdocs over to non-exempt status by giving them timesheets and asking them to track hours.   On November 22nd an injunction was granted to the updates that applied nationwide. We issued a statement that included a recommendation that institutions follow the example of the National Institutes of Health and their NRSA stipends, and continue to raise postdoctoral salaries as they had planned. We have since been gathering information on institutional responses in the tab on the FLSA and postdocs resource, “How institutional plans have/have not changed since the injunction.”   When we began the FLSA and postdocs resource, we...
FoR statement on the FLSA injunction

FoR statement on the FLSA injunction

Updates to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA, which affects academic workers, including postdocs) were due to go into effect on Dec 1st,  2016 requiring either a minimum salary for those with non-exempt job duties of $47,476, or the use of timesheets and payment of overtime at time-and-a-half over 40 hours in a work week. This implementation has now been delayed.   We provided an update here yesterday; we have issued a statement which you can download here and share; the text is below:   Statement from Future of Research on the FLSA injunction Updates to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA, which affects academic workers, including postdocs (http://futureofresearch.org/flsa-and-postdocs/)) were due to go into effect on Dec 1st, 2016 requiring either a minimum salary for those with non-exempt job duties of $47,476, or the use of timesheets and payment of overtime at time-and-a-half over 40 hours in a work week. A hearing was held on November 16th with 21 U.S. states filing a preliminary injunction against the Department of Labor to delay the December 1st implementation of these updates to the FLSA. The injunction was granted on November 22nd.   Our most recent data as of Nov 20th, 10 days prior to implementation, showed that 69% of postdocs would have seen salaries raised. We urge those institutions who planned to raise postdoctoral salaries to continue with their plans to do so, as recommended by a consensus across academia (see Pickett et al., PNAS 2015: “Toward a sustainable biomedical research enterprise: Finding consensus and implementing recommendations“). We support the NIH in continuing its plans to raise NRSA stipend levels on Dec...