This week, the White House announced new federal regulations concerning pay for most classes of workers who make up to $47,476 per year. Specifically, it increases the salary threshold for overtime pay–if you are salaried and make up to $913 per week, you need to receive overtime pay if you work more than 40 hours per week. National Institutes of Health director Francis Collins and Thomas Perez, the U.S. Secretary of Labor, co-authored an article stating explicitly that this applies to postdoctoral fellows, and Mike Lauer, deputy director of extramural affairs at NIH, weighed in as well. Businesses have six months, until December 1, to comply with the new rules, and it looks as though universities will need that much time to figure out what to do. The new rules pose challenges for many areas of academia: for example, they don’t apply to adjunct instructors (thus potentially creating even more inequity in the system), though they do apply to admissions officers, athletic trainers, and so on.
The Department of Labor gives a number of options for compliance besides paying overtime: for example, salaries could be raised to surpass the threshold, comp time could be offered, or base pay could be reduced. But researchers paid off grants have more to consider: the NIH modular budget has been the same since 2000 (when the Year 0 postdoc salary was about $27,000), and new requirements for reproducibility of research and scientific rigor may put additional pressure on already tight grant budgets.
We will update you with more information as this story unfolds.