Statement from the NPA on the Fair Labor Standards Act
Thursday, May 19, 2016
May 19, 2016
The National Postdoctoral Association (NPA), which represents 79,000 postdoctoral scholars, appreciates the clarity offered by the Department of Labor (DOL) in the latest revisions to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) regarding the eligibility of postdoctoral researchers for overtime compensation. Postdoctoral researchers are explicitly mentioned in the guidance for institutions of higher education as being eligible (non-exempt) for the new annual salary threshold of $47,476, which removes any ambiguity regarding classification of this population. The NPA has consistently advocated for higher salaries for postdoctoral fellows commensurate with their education, and supports a starting salary of $50,000 as recommended by the 2014 report from the National Academy of Sciences, The Postdoctoral Experience Revisited. While the proposed salary increase to $47,476 falls short of this recommendation, it is a positive step towards achieving our goal of increasing compensation for postdoctoral researchers nationwide. We are pleased that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) supports increasing the National Research Service Award (NRSA) stipend to address this rule, and we look forward to implementation of this salary increase as well as learning about the plans from other federal agencies that support postdoctoral scholars, including the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Departments of Energy (DOE) and Defense (DOD).
While scientific and humanities postdoctoral researchers who only perform research are not exempt from the rule and will consequently be eligible for overtime pay, postdoctoral researchers who also teach (for sciences) or if that is their primary role (for humanities) are exempt and will not receive compensatory overtime. We are unclear why a distinction has been made by DOL between scientific and humanities postdoctoral scholars and recommend that there should be no difference in how this rule is applied based on discipline or non-research activities, such as teaching. Uniform application of the updated FLSA standards will allow for accurate execution of the rule for both postdoctoral scholars and institutional leaders responsible for implementing the rule. The NPA looks forward to collaborating with the DOL, NIH, NSF and other agencies on the implementation of this rule and will continue its mission to enhance the postdoctoral experience.
Read this, and other statements from the NPA, here.