Collins announces NRSA salaries will meet Obama's overtime rule

In a piece on HuffPo, NIH Director Francis Collins announces the NIH response to Obama's new rules on overtime for salaried employees. Collins:

Under the new rule, which was informed by 270,000 public comments, the threshold will be increased to $47,476 effective December 1, 2016. ....In response to the proposed FLSA revisions, NIH will increase the awards for postdoctoral NRSA recipients to levels above the threshold.

"levels". Meaning, presumably the entire scale will start around $47.5K and move upward with years of postdoctoral experience, as the NRSA scale usually does.

What about the larger population of postdocs that are paid from non-NRSA funds, Dr. Collins?

..we recognize that research institutions that employ postdocs will need to readjust the salaries they pay to postdocs that are supported through other means, including other types of NIH research grants. While supporting the increased salaries will no doubt present financial challenges to NIH and the rest of the U.S. biomedical research enterprise, we plan to work closely with leaders in the postdoc and research communities to find creative solutions to ensure a smooth transition.

Imprecise and highly disappointing when it comes to the postdocs supported on "other types of NIH research grants". This would have been a great opportunity to state that the NIH expects any postdocs paid from RPGs to be on the NRSA scale, wouldn't it? Most postdocs are supported on NIH grants. This Rock Talk post shows in FY2009 something like 11,000 basic biomed postdocs on Federal research grants and only 1,000 on Federal fellowships and training grants (and ~7,800 on nonFederal support). So Francis Collins is talking the happy talk about 10% of the postdocs who work for him and throwing 90% into the storm.

The OER head, Michael Lauer, has a few more interesting points on the Open Mike blog.

Institutions that employ postdocs through non-NRSA support can choose how to follow the new rule. They may choose to carefully track their postdocs’ hours and pay overtime. Or, keeping with the fact that biomedical research – as in many professional and scientific careers – does not fit into neatly defined hourly shifts, institutions can choose to raise salaries to the new FLSA salary threshold or above it, if they do not yet pay postdocs at or above that level.

This would imply that Dr. Collins' supposed plan to "work closely with" and "ensure a smooth transition" is more realistically interpreted as "hey, good luck with the new Obama regs, dudes".

Before we get at it in the comments, a few lead off points from me:

The current NRSA scale pays 0 year postdocs $43,692 so in December the brand new postdoc will see a $4,000 raise, roughly. There is currently something on the order of $1,800 increases for each successive year of experience, this estimate is close enough for discussion purposes. If this yearly raise interval is maintained we can expect to see that same $4,000 pay rise applied to every salary level. Remember to apply your local benefits rate for the cost to a grant, if you are paying your postdocs at NRSA scale from RPG funds. Could turn this into a $5,000-$6,000 cost to the grant.

Postdocs getting paid more is great. Everyone in science should be paid more but there is something specific here. Postdocs frequently work more than 40 h per week for their salaried positions. This is right down the middle of the intent of Obama's change for the overtime rules. He is right on this. Period.

With that said, there is a very real disconnect here between the need to pay postdocs more and the business model which funds them. As mentioned above, 90% of Federally funded postdocs are supported by research grants, and 10% on fellowships or traineeships. (A population almost 8 times as large as the latter are supported by nonFederal funds- the percentage of these working on Federal research projects is likely to be substantial.) A grant may have one or two postdocs on it so adding another $5,000-$10,000 per year isn't trivial. Especially since the research grant budgets are constrained in a number of ways.

First, in time. We propose grants in a maximum of 5 year intervals but often the budget is designed one or two years prior to funding. These grant budgets are not supplemented in the middle of a competitively-awarded interval just because NRSA salary levels are increased. Given the way NRSA rises have been coming down randomly over the years, it is already the case that budgets are stretched. Despite what people seem to think (including at NIH), we PIs do not pad the heck out of our proposed research budgets. We can't. Our peers would recognize it on review and ding us accordingly.

Second, grants are constrained by the modular budgeting process which limits direct costs to $250,000 per year. This a soft and nebulous limit which depends on the culture of grant design, review and award. Formally speaking, one can choose a traditional budget process at any time if one needs to request funds in excess of $250,000 per year. Practically speaking, a lot of people choose to use the modular budget process. For reasons. The purchasing power has been declining for 15 years and there is no sign of a change in the expectations for per-grant scientific output.

Third, grant budgets are often limited by reductions to the requested budget that are imposed by the NIH. This can be levied upon original funding of the award or upon the award of each of the annual non-competing intervals of funding. These can often range to 10%, for argument's sake let's keep that $25,000 figure in mind when assessing the impact of such a reduction on paying a salary for a staff member, such as a postdoc. Point being, it's a big fraction of a salary. This new postdoc policy isn't going to result in fewer cuts or shallower cuts. Believe me.

I will be watching the way that local Universities choose to deal with the new policy with curiosity. I think we all see that trying to limit postdocs to 40 h a week of work so as to avoid raising the base salary is a ridiculous plan*. The other competitive motivations will continue to drive some postdocs to work more. This will put Universities (and PIs) in the extremely distasteful position of creating this elaborate fiction about working hours.

One potential upside for the good PI, who is already maintaining postdocs at NRSA levels even when funded from the RPG, is that it will force the bad PIs into line. This should narrow the competitive disadvantage that comes with trying to treat your postdocs well.

Final point. This will take away jobs. Fewer postdocs will be hired. Whether this is good or bad....well, opinions vary. But the math is unmistakable.

[UPDATE: The modular budget grant limit of $250,000 was established for R01s in FY2000 and the NRSA 0 year postdoc salary in FY2000 was $26,916. This is 10.8% of the direct costs of a full modular R01. In FY2017 when this new NRSA adjustment, the 0 year postdoc will be 19% of the direct costs of a full modular R01. In short the postdoc is now 76% more expensive than the postdoc was in FY2000.]
__
*It is, however, a failed opportunity to attempt to normalize academic science's working conditions. I see no reason we shouldn't take a stab at enforcing a 40 h work week in academic science, personally. Particularly for the grad student and post-doc labor force who are realistically not very different from the technicians who do, btw, enjoy most labor protections.

117 responses so far

  • Beyond post docs, this will have a huge effect on lab techs! All of my techs work more than 40 hours a week…

  • DNAdrinker says:

    The Department of Labor guidelines, "Guidance for Higher Education Institutions on Paying Overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act" says

    "Under the 2016 National Institutes of Health (NIH) salary guidelines for postdoctoral research fellows, some fellows earn more than the revised salary level. Other
    postdoctoral research fellows earn less, although it is the Department’s understanding that many postdoctoral research fellow salaries are close to the new salary level, and that any differences are not more than a few thousand dollars a year. "

    My impression is that the current NRSA scale is the top end. Plenty of places pay postdocs in the $30k range. I thought the hard floor on postdoc salaries was set by some language that says that maximum grad student compensation cannot exceed the minimum
    postdoc compensation.

  • drugmonkey says:

    All of my techs work more than 40 hours a week…

    Bad dog! BAD!

  • Craig says:

    @DNAdrinker-

    I agree that NRSA levels are towards the high end of postdoc compensation. A few institutions in high cost of living areas routinely pay their postdocs more. Intramural stipend levels are higher than NRSA levels.

    The majority probably make less. Additionally, one may have been hired at NRSA levels but not seen their compensation increase as much as NRSA levels have increased the last few years. The year-to-year stipend increases plus general push to increase postdoc compensation exceeds a flat, lets say 2%, increase that some employees give their employees.

    On the flip side, NRSA holders often get bare-bones benefits. Some postdocs get retirement, etc. These fringe benefits may push their total compensation beyond NRSA levels, but I can't say how many people actually have access to them.

  • The techs are mini grad students. First or second year out of college, with their own projects, working for a while before applying to grad school.

  • drugmonkey says:

    First or second year out of college, with their own projects, working for a while before applying to grad school.

    So what?

  • @CAYdenberg says:

    Is there really a need for elaborate fiction? We all know PIs who don't allow their postdocs to take FMLA, how is this any different?

  • jipkin says:

    Are your techs currently exempt via the duties test?

    I've spoken to a couple of techs recently who are currently classified as nonexempt (presumably on the basis of failing the duties test since their pay is higher than the current cut off). They fill out a time card each week that says that they work 35 hours a week, and have received instructions not to work more, or put more on the card. They work more anyway, partly because they are being treated exactly as mini-grad students with their own small projects and experiments to do. To them, the extra hours aren't a huge burden and they view it as necessary experience for getting into grad school. I've told them directly that this is ridiculous and that you can't be expected to work for more than you're being paid and so forth but they raise the "what am I going to do?" objection. As in - how can they bring this up to their boss without fear of some kind of reprisal?

    Not an acceptable situation in my eyes but I'm not sure what I can do about it.

  • jipkin says:

    Along the lines of "what universities are doing about it" here's an email from a friend's university today on this situation:

    "What could this mean for me?

    Depending upon your current annual salary and the new threshold for overtime, it could mean that your payroll status may change from exempt to non-exempt and potentially you may be required to keep track of your time worked with payroll subject to supervisor approval.

    What measures have been taken to anticipate these changes?

    The University Services: Office of Human Resources and leadership of the University of Redacted System and its campuses have been closely monitoring the situation and in preparation for this announcement have been collaborating to not only determine how many employees will be impacted as a result of the changes, but also how the System will correspondingly address the payroll and benefit issues that necessarily accompany the new regulations.

    Please keep in mind that some of the elements of the new rule may be subject to collective bargaining and the University of Redacted System is in ongoing discussion with RedactedUnion regarding the new FLSA threshold and its potential impact.

    Recognizing the tremendous interest in these updates from the Department of Labor and the measures to be implemented, we will work to finalize details of our plan to bring the University of Redacted System into compliance as expeditiously as possible.

    Throughout our process, we will work to not only maintain transparency, but also ongoing communications and outreach with our colleagues to keep them fully informed.

    Even though we don’t know the final details of the University of Redacted System compliance plan, what can we be doing now to anticipate coming into compliance?

    While it is not possible to determine all of the next steps involved in the process until the full impact of the announcement can be evaluated, it is possible to identify those individuals for whom a transition to a new payroll process will be required.

    In the coming weeks, supervisors and managers will be reaching out to those directly impacted by this change in federal regulations and support their efforts to make arrangements for the upcoming transition."

  • drugmonkey says:

    For those of you basically arguing that it is ok to underpay techs fresh out of undergrad because they are moving toward graduate school....

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/12/business/judge-rules-for-interns-who-sued-fox-searchlight.html?_r=0

    A judge said, in essence, your excuses are null and void.

  • jipkin says:

    One issue that was raised when we talked about all this stuff in lab today was what to do about worker's compensation.

    Suppose a postdoc and her supervisor are both going along with a fiction that she only works 40 hours a week and submitting the false time card to HR each week. Then said postdoc has an accident in lab at 6 pm when her time card said she had left at 5pm. She's seriously injured, unable to work, and, in many cases, ineligible for worker's compensation because she wasn't supposed to be there.

    If this sounds like a fantasy, keep in mind that this is essentially what happened to the University of Hawaii postdoc whose arm was blown off due to unsafe practices in lab (on the part of her and her PI it seems). It happened at 6 pm. (I do not know whether she has received worker's comp or anything).

    These are the sorts of scenarios that we ought to keep in mind. It's worth fighting the universities to make sure they don't allow a system to exist that is too easy to cheat.

  • TheWackademic says:

    Just wondering... do you pay grad students overtime? If not, why not?

  • jipkin says:

    Legally, you aren't obliged to pay GS overtime. They're "students". Not saying they don't get screwed, but there you go.

    And you're probably not required to pay your techs OT either (right now) assuming you're paying them more than 23.6k and they're actually doing research and not just menial tasks (aka dishwashers/solution makers/protocol grunt workers/data entry people can't work OT without compensation).

    What do you plan to do on Dec. 1 Wackademic?

  • Thewackademic says:

    Pay overtime, of course. I'm just quibbling with the notion that a tech who has willingly taken on the role a de facto grad student (presenting at journal club, attending seminars, running a project) deserves to be treated differently than a grad student.

  • dnadrinker says:

    Minimum wage postdocs?

    If you expect postdocs to work 60 hours/week you might think you can just reduce their current salary so that their new salary + time and a half, will equal their old salary.

    The lowest you can go is the minimum wage.

    If it's $10/hour, then ($10/hour*40 + ($15/hour *20)) = $700/week or $35,000/yr

    Several states are going to a minimum wage of $15/hour by 2023. If you worked 60 hours/week that would be $52,500.

    Will we see minimum wage postdocs?

  • neuromusic says:

    wtf is a "de facto" student?

  • clearlyapostdoc says:

    It's a great thing for postdocs if less postdocs are hired!
    The field is totally and completely bloated with way too many postdocs for the faculty positions that they will one day seek, bot not be able to get. So yes -- less postdocs will be hired, which means that some will be weeded out into other professions earlier on. I don't see the downside for postdocs.

  • jipkin says:

    it's like a student but cheaper.

  • lurker says:

    The $250K modular budget is such mirage when nearly every modular is getting a 15-20% cut automatically these days. We do the shell game on the grant budget every time we submit a grant, make a budget that maxes the $250K, but now we have to expect this cut and take what precious grant money coming. That $37.5K-$50K you can just say good bye to, and that's one PD position gone. Now this higher PD salary mandate will mean the second PD or the tech loses their job.

    I hear the BSD/Senior types saying "Oh, this will now be the mechanism to raise the Modular limit!" REALLY? NIH can't even meet the current limit, routinely cutting 15-20%, think they have $$ up their keester to raise the limit for this PD salary raise mandate?

    We are all SOL, and there is some serious cognitive dissonance going on between the NIH leadership, the BSD's and reality.....

  • dnadrinker says:

    Jifkin, if people go with the false timecard plan they'll have bigger problems than workers comp. All you need is one person to be dissatisfied and it'll bring the whole operation down. Someone could even report it anonymously to a whistleblower line.

    All they have to do is keep a record of hours they actually worked and claim coercion to sign the false timesheets. In most cases the supervisor has to also approve the timesheets. Keep that up for a few months and get a lawyer. The employer/supervisor is going to look guilty and will be responsible for back pay and penalties.

  • jipkin says:

    This is true but considering I know of a situation occurring right now with nonexempt techs filling out time cards for 35 hours and working more than that (with the supervisor not really checking), I'm not ruling out this scenario. There is cultural inertia here. PIs need their postdocs to produce. Nonexempt postdocs will want to work longer to compete with exempt ones. PIs are often not the best people managers to begin with.

    It seems pretty easy to imagine a world where postdocs are working 45-50 and claiming 40 with the PI either not knowing or not caring enough to really enforce the time sheet's accuracy.

  • Grumble says:

    "This will put Universities (and PIs) in the extremely distasteful position of creating this elaborate fiction about working hours"

    Oh, well, we already create elaborate fictions about effort allocation, animal usage, and proposed experiments in grants (for the latter two: proposing what you are going to do 3 or 5 years from now when you have absolutely no idea what you are actually going to do). What's another elaborate fiction to add to the never-ending charade?

    Less sarcastically: I suspect that the new regulations will have little impact in expensive major metro areas, where colleges already set post-doc salary minimums at close to the NRSA minimum. The NRSA minimum increases regularly, so it would soon have been more than the threshold. So, business as usual and not much impact.

    It's the schools in flyover territory, where your $30k post-doc salary lets you live pretty well (if your spouse is also pulling in the same or more) that are going to be most impacted. Giving all your post-docs a $10k-$15k raise is going to hurt them, and I suspect that they are the ones most likely to go the 40-hr-per-week song-and-dance route.

  • Joe says:

    Two post-docs and one has an NRSA. One will get a raise, the other won't.

  • drugmonkey says:

    Nobody serious thinks raising the modular limit is on the table or horizon. Where are you hearing such claptrap?

  • Emaderton3 says:

    @jipkin

    Um, you have to pay your techs OT if you work at a place where they record their hours . . . . swipe in, swipe out . . .

    My tech has a set "salary" but it is really based on an hourly rate assuming 40 hours/week.

  • MorganPhD says:

    I'm going to send my PDs home if they aren't pipetting. Thinking doesn't count.

    Running a gel? You are free to leave and not be paid during that 2hr wait. You could also start the next experiment. But no Facebook or Twitter. Anything vaguely career development related cannot be done on my time. Are you writing research proposals for your next round of faculty applications? Sorry, no looking for your next job at your current job. No reading papers. That's skill development. You are now a highly trained employee. Not a trainee.

    /s

  • A Salty Scientist says:

    Budgets are not getting larger without culling more people (a likely non-starter at NIH). On average, our labs will become smaller and we will accomplish less than our mentors.

  • Zb says:

    "No reading papers. That's skill development. You are now a highly trained employee. Not a trainee."

    'Cause of course, as a pi who is trained, you no longer read papers?

    This floor is reasonable for post docs. And, I'm guessing that hourly employees can't really be scheduled for 15 minute shifts followed by 2 hour unpaid breaks.

    These "elaborate fiction" scenarios might work for a while until a disgruntled employee sues and universities get slapped with substantial fines.

    And the compliance is more challenging than the soft money faculty issue with federal grants, because time spent in lab work is more measure able than grant output. We can always lie and say we wrote the grant in 2 hours, but the time spent running behavior is measured in time, not output.

  • drugmonkey says:

    There go my midday blog hits MorganPhD 🙁

  • solleks_chuck says:

    "If this [$1800] yearly raise interval is maintained we can expect to see that same $4,000 pay rise applied to every salary level"

    Why would it be? I'd expect the salary to be flat at the FLSA min until, say, year 3 or 4. This is what happened when Stanford decreed a $50K minimum for all postdocs--you don't get paid more based on experience until year 5. ( http://postdocs.stanford.edu/handbook/salary.html )

    So, using 2016 numbers, this means the lifetime increase over a 4-year postdoc would be about 3%.

    2016 NRSA mins for years 1-4:
    $43,692 + 45,444 + 47,268 + 49,152 = $185,556

    min(FLSA,NRSA mins) for years 1-4:
    $47,476 + 47,476 + 47,476 + 49,152 = $191,580

    ... or, 3.2%

    Your points about places that pay less than NRSA still stand.

  • katiesci says:

    "Deserves to be treated differently than a grad student."

    Deserves? They deserve to work more than 40hr/wk and not get paid for more than 40? AYFKM?

    They are employees not trainees. Even if they want to be a grad student someday they are not grad students now.

  • katiesci says:

    Realized I may have read your comment wrong but my indignence still stands.

  • solleks_chuck says:

    "If this [$1800] yearly raise interval is maintained we can expect to see that same $4,000 pay rise applied to every salary level"

    Why assume that? I'd expect the salary to be flat at the FLSA min until, say, year 3 or 4. This is what happened when Stanford decreed a $50K minimum for all postdocs--you don't get paid more based on experience until year 5. (Google: stanford postdoc salary 2016, I can't post links here?)

    Using 2016 numbers, this would mean a lifetime increase over a 4-year postdoc would be about 3% vs. NRSA minimums. Not a monster increase. Now if you're currently paying yoru PDs less than NRSA minimums, you have bigger problems, but less sympathy from me.

    2016 NRSA mins for years 1-4:
    $43,692 + 45,444 + 47,268 + 49,152 = $185,556

    min(FLSA,NRSA mins) for years 1-4:
    $47,476 + 47,476 + 47,476 + 49,152 = $191,580

  • jipkin says:

    By the way people,

    Trainees - defined as those who are training do a job and not yet doing it - are ALWAYS nonexempt, regardless of salary.

    So these employee/trainee arguments are moot.

    § 541.705 Trainees.
    The executive, administrative, professional,
    outside sales and computer
    employee exemptions do not apply to
    employees training for employment in
    an executive, administrative, professional,
    outside sales or computer employee
    capacity who are not actually
    performing the duties of an executive,
    administrative, professional, outside
    sales or computer employee.

  • jmz4 says:

    No university is going to put PDs on a time card. One, it would be too expensive. My 60hr work week would bloat to 37.5k over my original salary ov 50k.
    They could claim to limit work hours to 40k. But given the nebulous morass of a job description that is a postdoc, I could sit a home and read training manuals for a year and be entitled to my salary.

    The best and most efficient solution is to move the salary up.

  • jipkin says:

    It is, but I wouldn't say never. The email I posted above is from a major university. The whispers I've heard at my university say similar things (though I doubt my lab will do anything other than raise salary).

  • Craig says:

    I agree with a the previous posters commenting on the potential liability issues surrounding falsifying time cards. Everyone has a GPS tracker in their possession these days. It would be easy for an embittered, undercompensated individual to come up with a record of their actual activity.

  • Eli Rabett says:

    Somebunny comes up to you and says, hey I have a $30K personal fellowship from XYZ (not government) and I want to train in your lab. Does this rule apply?

    Neither you nor your university pays the bunny or assigns work.

    What does this do to volunteers? 150% of $0/hr is still $0.

  • jipkin says:

    IMO labs shouldn't allow volunteers at all (same as unpaid internship mess).

    I haven't seen anything on external fellowships. My guess is that as long as an employee-employer relationship exists that the compensation rules apply regardless of the source of money. Perhaps the loophole here is to qualify such postdocs as independent contractors in these cases or some such nonsense.

  • Namnezia says:

    Having been forced by circumstance at different points in my career to work 40 hr weeks, I have to say that my productivity did not take a hit due to the limited hours. One just learns to adapt and become much more efficient. I've seen this too in trainees of mine who also have limited hours to work. I've also not seen any direct correlation between productivity and hours spent in lab.

  • JL says:

    "The best and most efficient solution is to move the salary up."

    Jmz4, we have been through this discussion before. And if there is no other source of money?

    I see two options: limit PDs to 40 hrs, and only keep those that can be competitively productive in that time, or change projects to some that require less animals and cheaper equipment/disposables. But we have been cutting those to the bones already.

  • drugmonkey says:

    A comment on the HuffPo piece got me thinking about the cost to the full modular when it was established versus now. I added the following as an update to the post.

    The modular budget grant limit of $250,000 was established for R01s in FY2000 and the NRSA 0 year postdoc salary in FY2000 was $26,916. This is 10.8% of the direct costs of a full modular R01. In FY2017 when this new NRSA adjustment, the 0 year postdoc will be 19% of the direct costs of a full modular R01. In short the postdoc is now 76% more expensive than the postdoc was in FY2000.

  • Pinko Punko says:

    Most common modular now is essentially 2.5 modules less than full. In 2000 what was most common modular? -1 or -2 modules? Or was full most common? (Talking GM cuz they are most open w their data)

  • drugmonkey says:

    I'm not sure we need to get down to that level do we? I mean I bet that hesitation to ask for the max back then more or less equates to the inevitable reductions now, right?

  • Pinko Punko says:

    I actually was suspecting that there was time where people were more likely to get the max modular- so just was interested to know how much the calculation underestimates the cost increase for postdocs. I don't think you are overestimating, but it could actually be quite an underestimate for people in the modular zip code, depending- meaning even more stark comparison

  • Comradde PhysioProffe says:

    As per the usual, elite wealthy institutions like Stanford will deal with this seamlessly, and continue to subsidize research costs of their PIs, bumping such subsidy up a bit to allow post-doc salaries (which already are close to this minimum) to exceed the non-exempt minimum. If there really are institutions paying post-docs closer to $30,000 per annum, they are gonna be fucked. And woe to those institutions that depend on sick fucke Republican loony toonz state legislatures for substantial portions of their budgets.

  • I agree with Namnezia--hours in lab does not necessarily correlate with productivity. As as student, I didn't want to have to go into the lab on weekends, so I planned things so that I didn't have to. My entire scientific career, I have only come in on weekends a handful of times. When my time got more constrained, I got better at managing it. I think that would happen to postdocs limited to 40 hours too. Most of the 60+ hour weeks I see involve lots of "face time" and not even 40 hours of work time.

    At National Lab we played the falsify time cards game. We were "salaried", but had to fill out timesheets and were restricted to 40 hours per week. Everyone I know put 8.5 hours regardless of actual hours worked (it was 8.5 hours per day since we were supposed to take an unpaid 30 minutes for lunch). I can't imagine things are all that different at other National Labs. We all used to laugh about it, but it was actually fraud. I can't see that happening at Universities--it was so deeply ingrained in the lab culture that no one questioned it. At Universities, most postdocs don't fill out timesheets, so the timesheet culture would be brand new.

  • MorganPhD says:

    Drugmonkey, sorry for derailing your blog with nonsense (well, in this case, the crap that other businesses do to their employees. Maybe we should do what mechanics do and require their employees to buy their own tools and then they can come to work...)

  • Grumble says:

    "We all used to laugh about it, but it was actually fraud."

    Yet it's the stupid requirement that makes it fraud, not any intention on the PI's or post-doc's part to defraud. Imagine that you take a long walk on Sunday morning, thinking about your next experiment. Should you be paid for it?

    Of course. Magically, if you are exempt and draw an annual salary, you got paid for it. Equally magically, if you are non-exempt and draw an hourly wage that equates to exactly the same salary, you weren't paid for it.

    What this really means is that when the nature of what you produce can't be measured as a direct function of hours spent at work, but rather is dependent on your accomplishments, then you should be an exempt employee and your employer should not require a timecard. Timecards in that situation are meaningless. Do they have any legal relevance - that is, if you are forced to falsify them, can you can sue the company, or can the company be prosecuted? If you're exempt, I doubt it.

  • @Grumble

    Yes, timesheets were a stupid requirement that we all agreed we should not have had to do, since we all considered ourselves salaried. That said, the conditions of employment required us to fill out timesheets (I think all Federal employees had to back then, and probably still do).

    We were Federal employees. As a result, we were required to sign a fraudulent document that was submitted to the Federal government every 2 weeks. Our employer in the end was the US government. I have no idea who would have taken the heat for it if someone upset the applecart, but Uncle Sam takes a dim view of massive fraud when it shows up in the NYT, even if in this case, we were giving free labor to the Feds.

  • mH says:

    Grumble nails it. Exempt status is about the nature of the work. When I worked outside academia, I had both kinds of jobs, and it equates directly to responsibility and the extent to which you own and manage your work. In a non-exempt job, I showed up on time, did my thing, left on time, and didn't give it a thought when I wasn't there. No manager would ever have asked for more (a weekend/evening phone call or meeting) with explicitly stating what overtime was available. Even training was on the clock or OT. No reading, no writing, no taking anything home.

    In an exempt position, you have responsibility for the work. If something goes wrong, you work more to fix it. If a client freaks out and needs to be talked down on a Sunday afternoon, you do it.

    Which one is "postdoc" more like?

    File under: academia's relentless failure at professionalism.

  • jipkin says:

    No not exactly mH.

    Exempt status is about the nature of the work, the basis by which you are compensated, and the level of that compensation.

    So... yeah. In the eyes of the law, the nature of the work doesn't matter if you aren't getting paid a certain salary.

    And let's just remember that, according to the NYT, the proposed new salary cut-off is still below where it was in 1975 after adjusting for inflation.

  • qaz says:

    Although I agree muchly with mH and Grumble, it's not about responsibility for the work. It's about whether the work can be measured in time or not. Intellectual work cannot be easily measured in time. Time spent walking in the park realizing how something works can be much more effective than one...more...gel... If it takes you 100 hours to write a paper and me 10, you shouldn't get paid more for it.

    Hourly salary works fine when time equals productivity. (Think working the assembly line. When you are there, you do what you do. When you are not, you do something else, but don't get paid for it.) Science, particularly at the post-doctoral level (*), does not. If we REALLY want to go down this road, we should simply pay postdocs for productivity, not time. Each published paper is worth $X. I don't care how long you spent on it. (**)

    * I am assuming that we are talking about real postdocs, doing research, mostly independent, and not glorified technicians running a PI's lab chores.

    ** Note: I'm NOT actually suggesting this - the incentive structure would be devastating to scientific progress.

  • zb says:

    "So... yeah. In the eyes of the law, the nature of the work doesn't matter if you aren't getting paid a certain salary."

    No, this is not the case. There is a "duties" test even for those who are being paid above the base level.

    "An employee who meets the salary level tests and also the salary basis tests is exempt only if s/he also performs exempt job duties. "

    http://www.flsa.com/coverage.html (a law firm description)

  • zb says:

    The musing on what one might think is "exempt" work is (from some sense of first principles) might be fun. But, there's actual law and legal opinions on the question. PI's don't get to decide based on their own personal opinions.

    jipkin's
    "Exempt status is about the nature of the work, the basis by which you are compensated, and the level of that compensation."

    sounds like a pretty good summary of the law to me. And, morally, the argument is that if you are, by the nature of your work, an exempt employee, you should be paid more generously, as a creative thinker, manager, creator.

  • jipkin says:

    Yes that's right zb. I was trying to correct the implication of mH's argument that passing the duties test was all that is required for exempt status (or all that should be required?).

    If you make more than the salary cut-off you certainly need to also pass the duties test to qualify as exempt.

    But if you pass the duties test and make less than the cut-off, you are still non-exempt.

  • Grumble says:

    "And, morally, the argument is that if you are, by the nature of your work, an exempt employee, you should be paid more generously, as a creative thinker, manager, creator."

    I thought the moral argument was that if you do non-creative work and get paid peanuts for it, you shouldn't be classified as "exempt" just because your employer decides you're exempt in order to get you to work longer hours without compensating you. THAT is why there is a minimum salary for the exempt classification - not because the nature of an exempt employee's work is inherently more valuable than that of a non-exempt employee.

  • drugmonkey says:

    just because your employer decides you're exempt in order to get you to work longer hours without compensating you.

    It's almost like....naaah, couldn't be. Could it?

  • jipkin says:

    The argument for exemption existing at all is that some people need more time to get stuff done because they have more responsibilities or because the nature of their work dictates that. (which is more or less what zb said)

    The argument for also imposing a salary cut-off is that it stops employers from abusing this system to promote everyone to "manager" and then have them work longer doing the same stuff they already were. (which is what grumble just said).

    I think you're both right.

  • jmz4 says:

    "Jmz4, we have been through this discussion before. And if there is no other source of money."

    Put them on a 9mo salary. PIs are not entitled to free labor. Though, I admit when I said that I was thinking of my institutions, where the nrsa minimum is the standard, and so kicking it up 4k is not a huge deal. I didn't realize there were so many places paying their PDs that much less. I agree, they're in a bind, but it is of their own design.

    @Prodigal and Namezia
    It depends on your type of work. I have cultures and strains to maintain that necessitate me coming in for at least a couple hours on the weekends if I don't want to waste time and reagents.

    @Morgan
    That's not how other workplaces operate and you know it. You don't stop getting paid cause you're waiting on an email from someone.

    The main problem, DM, with trying to impose the 40hr work week though this, is that you have postdocs, like myself, who are exempt. It isn't fair to 40hr work week PDs to have to compete with my "ability" to work however long I need to that week. They'd be handicapping their workforce's ability to compete for other positions.

  • Microscientist says:

    I've seen firsthand the insanity of doing science on a time card. My SO is a career technician in a research lab at a large, very well known medical center. Once he was hired "permanently" on hard money, HR lumped him in with the clinical lab techs. Clinical lab techs all work shifts and have to clock in. So he was expected to do the same. The clocking system was tied to the security key cards for the building. So if you were in the building, you were on the clock, and there were dire warnings and consequences for not being truthful in your log of time.
    He was in the middle of a large, morbidity based mouse experiment when the issues of being on the clock came to a head. The vet called, and several mice needed to be euthanized and processed based on symptoms just as his weekly 40 hours was about to expire (at noon on a Tuesday). He walked into the bosses office and laid out the dilemma, and was told to go sack the mouse. The boss then got to work finding a way to move him to a different job category that was salary based. Unless we all plan to hire shifts of people who can do the science assembly line style.

  • baltogirl says:

    Two points- in an ideal world I bet most faculty would LOVE to pay postdocs and techs more. But I am running a lab on a shoestring right now (and my salary eats 40% of the string). As the above commenters have said, the funds are just not there to both do the work and pay anyone overtime. And these funds are not likely to suddenly arise. (Unlike some of the other posters here, I do see a correlation between time spent doing experiments and productive outcomes.)

    Second, my university requires faculty to submit timesheets which include the number of hours worked each week (though does not specify WHICH hours in the day these are- this kind of time accounting would cover the 6 pm postdoc in terms of accident coverage). Needless to say, I consistently underreport my hours (note that I also work many hours in the lab each week since I have so few lab personnel left.) So, I guess I am also committing fraud.

  • DNAdrinker says:

    Will wage theft be the new sexual harassment?

    A few decades ago if a male professor used the graduate students as his dating pool it was dealt with by a "we are all adults", wink, "boys will be boys" attitude. Then things changed and people are getting fired.

    I see the same thing here with some people describing *wage theft*, telling employees (technicians) to clock 40 hours but work much more, as an acceptable practice. "It's the only way to compete", "we've always done it that way", "its for their own personal development", etc.

    What's going to happen when an employee finally figure it out and files for back wages. What's a judge going to say when they see the employers time cards (signed by the supervisor) and the employee says they were coerced into filling out only 40 hours/week? Then a mountain of evidence from lab books, key cards, equipment usage logs, and google's timeline says the employee was working outside the paid times.

    The judge is going to force the employer to pay back pay, fines, and attorney fees. I think the statue of limitations in 3 years. Universities will have to pay that, because the grant money can't be used for it. Dean's are going to be upset, PIs are going to get fired.

    That's why real businesses run like Microscientist's SO's medical center. They make it so that if you are present in the facility, you are getting paid.

  • Ola says:

    Two points:

    1) There's gonna be a lot of schmoozing with HR reps in the coming months! I tell HR the post-doc works 40 hrs. The post-doc' tells HR they work 40 hrs. We have an "agreement". Who's gonna blink first?

    2) Where in the fucking fuck is the money supposed to come from to pay for this shittio? With a 26% benefits fringe, a starting post0doc' at my med' center is now about a quarter of a modular grant with a budget cut. After paying 40% of my salary plus a grad student stipend and 50% of a tech', that leaves about $15k for science, which is about half of our annual mouse bill (which just doubled o/n because of the SABV mandate).

    Thanks Francis!

  • jipkin says:

    I'm kind of curious to what extent PI readers of this blog were planning for this. We've known that this rule change was coming for over a year now iirc. Is it even possible to plan ahead for this, budget-wise?

  • Grumble says:

    "I agree, they're in a bind, but it is of their own design."

    Not necessarily. There are places in this country where you can live well on a $40 salary. When the faculty are making only $65k, it seems absurd to mandate the minimum post-doc salary at $47k.

    "Clinical lab techs all work shifts and have to clock in. So he was expected to do the same. The clocking system was tied to the security key cards for the building. So if you were in the building, you were on the clock, and there were dire warnings and consequences for not being truthful in your log of time."

    Where I work, the hourly employees clock in more or less the same way - and that includes the scientific lab techs. The system has worked reasonably well. It's not that a tech *can't* work more than 40 hours per week (actually, they're unionized and I believe it's actually 37.5 hours or something). It's that if they do, they must be paid 50% more for the overtime hours. In the case you described, where it was an emergency, it would have been an extra hour or two of the tech's time, for which he would have been well compensated. What's the big deal?

    Even with experiments that require personnel to come in at odd hours, there is no reason why it can't be arranged so that they work no more than 40 hours/week except on rare occasions. If regular overtime is needed, it's a sign that there aren't enough people working on the project.

    "It's almost like....naaah, couldn't be. Could it?"

    Duties test, DM. Post-docs are doing creative/intellectual work. They aren't technicians.

  • Grumble says:

    "Where in the fucking fuck is the money supposed to come from to pay for this shittio? "

    Do less science and more bullshit.

  • jmz4 says:

    "Two points- in an ideal world I bet most faculty would LOVE to pay postdocs and techs more. "
    -I wouldn't be so sure. Advocating for higher postdoc salaries at my Uni, I've run into a surprising number of (mostly older) PIs that think that postdocs make to much already, and if you're not willing to suffer, you're not a *true* scientist.

    For all the "where is the money coming from" people, as DM points out, postdoc stipends as a percent of R01 awards have been rising for some time. Till now, this hasn't slowed the rate of growth of the postdoctoral population. Why will this be the straw that breaks the camels back? I for one hope you are right and it will dramatically reduce the number of postdocs, but given the historical data, I don't see it happening unless Universities become fully compliant (no tricks or cheats).

  • jmz4 says:

    "When the faculty are making only $65k, it seems absurd to mandate the minimum post-doc salary at $47k."
    -Not to get into the whole fair-pay boondoggle, but in many companies, it is not absurd for the immediate supervisor to a group of employees to be only making 25-50% more than her subordinates. A 3-5x jump in salary is, however, unusual. At least that's what I heard at Paula Stephan's talk.

    Not that I think faculty should have to do this, but would your institutions allow you to trim your own salaries to cover increased PD wages?

  • drugmonkey says:

    jmz4- you realize that faculty also exhibit their own version of self-oriented arguments about how they are grossly underpaid and need to be paid more on completely objective and relevant grounds, correct?

  • drugmonkey says:

    I'm kind of curious to what extent PI readers of this blog were planning for this. We've known that this rule change was coming for over a year now iirc. Is it even possible to plan ahead for this, budget-wise?

    No, you can't plan on the scale of a single year to deal with situations like this.

    I certainly don't "plan ahead" like this . I can't. What I do is cope, compensate and generally deal with current circumstances to do the best I can to keep my lab going as productively as possible. When I hear news of upcoming badness, it helps me to anticipate but that's about it.

    What can you do? "fire this one staff person to cover the increases for this other staff person"? - sure but doing it before you have to cuts productivity.

    Avoid spending the money on supplies and ongoing optional research costs - sure but doing it before you have to cuts productivity.

    Don't hire new people you were otherwise planning to hire - probably people do this one. I would. But even here, the cycle of planning to hire someone is often at greater than a 1 year interval.

    Or use the method of "eventually fire this one person a few months earlier than anticipated because the burn rate is now higher".

    The job of the PI is to make the numbers add up to keep the lab going in a productive manner. Everyone has to do this to some extent. But the choices are heavily constrained by the fact that you need to do the job, which is to publish science. And by the fluctations of the grant funding cycle (with imposed budget reductions considered).

  • MorganPhD says:

    My lab is in one of the states that just went to a $15/hr minimum wage.

    Work study students will increase from $9/hr to $15/hr, an out of pocket cost of $3/hr per student. That's nearly 50% more in real world costs.

    At my postdoc university (a super big East Coast med school), starting BS-level technicians generally were paid between $20-30K/yr. The minimum I can pay a full-time 40/hr week technician is $31.5K.

    I am very happy about this, even if it sucks for my budget.

    What happened to "rising tides lift all boats"?

  • drugmonkey says:

    I am very happy about this, even if it sucks for my budget.

    I believe one possible upside is that the competitive disadvantage of being an employer who tries to do the right thing for his employees has been narrowed. Thereby minimizing the rewards of doing the wrong thing. Which is the whole point of government workplace regulation.

    Because after all, the benchmark for productivity, given certain amounts of grant funding expenditure, is established communally. Just like the cost of a fast food hamburger is established communally. And just like we might all have to accept paying a little more for a BigMac as $15/h rules come into play, we might all have to accept slightly less productivity per grant dollar.

  • I suspect that the outcome of this change will be like when some place unionizes--the people who remain have better working conditions, but there are fewer workers. In a few years, there will be a new steady state with fewer postdocs.

    I like the idea that PIs who attempt to do right by their postdocs will be at less of a competitive disadvantage. It is unbelievable that there are postdocs making under $4ok, no matter how low the cost of living is. I loved my postdoc--I learned a ton and was paid to do nothing but science all day long. But then again, I was at National Lab, where postdocs make a good salary with good benefits.

    I think DM is right in that productivity per dollar will adjust accordingly to the new norm. One can only hope that this rule will start a discussion about work-life balance and expectation, but I am not holding my breath.

  • YeperRu says:

    I am a PI dont know. I feel like I may prefer the non-exempt route with a pay of 35,000. I would/will have an understanding that A) all work should occur at the workplace (this includes writing ect) and B) working 45-55hrs per week with an avg of 50 is fine. With paid OT that's 48k. I like the idea of them writing the hours they did. Might improve productivity with less and professionalism

  • Ola says:

    Like I said (albeit cryptically) in my earlier comment, for those who have an "in" with HR, this is a non issue. It doesn't matter a shit if the PDF is working 80 hours a week. So long as they tell HR it's 40, and the PI tells HR it's 40, and the HR person is willing to look the other way because the Dean told them "think of the indirects if we lose all that lovely R01 money", then nothing will change!
    Everyone seems to be focusing on ppl doing the right thing, while failing to recognize that the ppl who have been getting away with shitty HR practices for decades are just going to continue doing that, BECAUSE THEY CAN ! If a PI has an H1B visa machete to your neck, are you as an immigrant post-doc really gonna push the overtime issue? Fuck no! Get in line and say you work 40 hours a week even tho' everyone knows it's closer to double that.

  • JL says:

    jmz4, "Put them on a 9mo salary. PIs are not entitled to free labor. Though, I admit when I said that I was thinking of my institutions, where the nrsa minimum is the standard, and so kicking it up 4k is not a huge deal. I didn't realize there were so many places paying their PDs that much less. I agree, they're in a bind, but it is of their own design."

    You are mistaken in your assumption. I make an effort to pay PDs the nrsa minimum, even from sources that provide far less than nrsa. How is it not an extra problem to now have to find another 4k? (plus 40% F&B, plus 60% indirects)? How is this bind of my own design?

    You are so upset against PIs and convinced that all we want is to screw people, that you don't see the real challenges.

    DM is right. I am making the spreadsheet for my budget of the next couple of years. If the cost of a PD goes up by this much, I will have one person less in the lab. Fire someone. Not replace someone that leaves. Something will have to give. This will have to happen sometime in mid 2017.

  • jipkin says:

    It's not really a question of if anymore. Republicans will make noise and even pass bills but they're never going to get a veto-proof majority on this.

  • dnadrinker says:

    Ola, I don't think you understand how easy this case would be. In California there a few forms you fill out and file with the department of labor. They arrange a settlement conference with your employer. You show up to that and probably meet the university attorney with your timesheets. You tell the mediator you were coerced into signing those. You show a lab book with records from days you were supposedly not working. You show your Google my timeline which shows where you are every minute of every day demonstrating a typical week.

    Say you worked two years at a $40k/year postdoc, where you actually worked 80 hours per week, but never got overtime. Your claim would be for $120k.

    All it takes is a few of those cases and a university hr policies will change quickly.

  • Alfred Wallace says:

    "I suspect that the outcome of this change will be like when some place unionizes--the people who remain have better working conditions, but there are fewer workers. In a few years, there will be a new steady state with fewer postdocs."

    So a win-win?

  • […] at Psychosimian, in the discussion about the PD/40 hr/OT discussion, someone […]

  • qaz says:

    It is very important for all the PIs who think they are gaming the system by lying about time-cards to realize that the university/institute has different priorities than you do. Their priorities are to cover their a**es not yours. If one disgruntled postdoc (*) complains, the university/institute will make *you* pay that back-pay and penalties. And the fact that you thought you had an unwritten rule to lie to HR (wink, wink) isn't going to help you.

    * And we all know that there is a lot going on in the world to disgruntle a postdoc. It might not even be your fault. But one postdoc deciding that the system has screwed them over and the doing-time-in-the-minor-leagues-deal they thought they had goes bad and the least they can do is get paid a real salary out of it...

    So, simply put, DON'T DO THIS! Either count hours correctly (whatever that means*) or pay them above that minimum.

    * What does an hourly salary mean when someone is writing papers from home? Does that count? Are we in lawyer mode, when every second is billed to the client? or are we in flight-attendant mode, where time only counts once the boarding door is closed?, or are we in teacher mode, where time in class counts, and everything else is "donated"?

    Personally, I'm going to divide postdocs and techs into hourly and non-hourly positions and I'm going to make the hourly people do what they're told and nothing else so I don't get surprised by overtime (that means no more "interesting side projects for junior techs).

  • Grumpy says:

    Qaz and all the others pleading for transparent HR practices: is it not the case at your institution that grad student RAs and TAs are also expected to work only 20 hours per week during the semester? Because everywhere I have been it has been the case. And in all those places there was a very out-in-the-open wink wink policy for students to circumvent this.

    Full disclosure: I already pay my postdocs 50k+ so none of this will affect me (wtf at 30-40k salaries for postdocs, what is wrong with your field?!)

  • jmz4 says:

    "You are so upset against PIs and convinced that all we want is to screw people, that you don't see the real challenges."
    Not really. I know PIs are doing their best with reduced R01 purchasing power and tough funding climates. I see the challenges, and I understand some PIs will have to make hard choices. But that doesn't mean they should try to find ways around the law, which I think is more or less fair.
    My point about the minimum, was that if you already pay your postdocs close to the minimum, this isn't going to break your lab (unless you just hired 5 1st year PDs). But if you've been paying low wages, this will be a big shift, and it will be more likely to shutter your lab.

    But yeah, we've all commented on how we need fewer postdocs, so don't feel too bad about not hiring more of them, or hurrying others out the door.

    @qaz. Legally, can they do that? Your the supervisor, but ultimately they are the employer. In a lawsuit they would still have the final liability. I don't think they could use grant money to pay legal expenses and back pay like that.

    At my ILAF, as CPP predicted, the latest buzz is that they're going to go ahead and raise the minimum. No word on whether that's for all the tiers or just the bottom three. If it's only the bottom three, I will be very curious to see the reaction from 4+ year postdocs. Have all the firebrands been selected out from our cohort, or will some rise up to protest. I'm not sure I would agree with them if they did.

  • drugmonkey says:

    jmz4- it isn't about "break your lab". It is about "firing people who work for you". Trainees always seem to assume these salary bumps mean they get more money (whee) and keep their job. Those of us who have multiple staff members in our labs look at it differently.

  • zb says:

    I also agree that ultimately this ruling is going to mean raising the post-doc salary for all postdocs. I don't think it's really going to be possible to have post-docs that clock their hours and ones who don't, and the two administrative structures that would have to be set up for them. As someone else pointed out the enforcement provisions in the FLSA, and the rights it guarantees non-exempt workers are pretty substantial. Lying to HR, requiring overtime hours, would put major research institutions in significant legal trouble with relatively straightforward investment on part of the post-docs whose rights under the law were violated.

    If we were to get an administration that was unsympathetic to labor, potentially there might be lobbying to put post-docs in a category of labor (i.e. teachers) who would be exempt by definition. (But then, I'd expect money for research to dry up in that case, too, as taxes get cut and deficits rise and we start building walls and wars.)

    So, what happens if post-doc salaries go up? Yes, I'd guess there will be fewer workers and there will be less science. There will also be pressure on soft money positions in which a larger portion of the PI's grant is put on grants, since they will have less money to pay workers than those who have some support from other sources. Maybe, too, it will increase the possibility of those "staff scientist" positions, which could, theoretically be paid at similar levels to post-docs?

    I don't know what will happen with those coming with outside sources of post-doctoral funding --I believe the FLSA will apply in any case, but how will the labs deal with the outside source of salary?

  • drugmonkey says:

    And to be clear I'm thinking about labs that might have to raise one or two PDs from current NRSA minimum.

    These supposed postdocs being paid $30,000 at the present? These PIs, well my sympathies are limited. They've been benefitting from being a bad actor.

  • jipkin says:

    Not sure that's always true DM. I bet plenty of postdocs in a budget-stressed labs are worried. Perhaps they aren't on twitter or posting here.

  • drugmonkey says:

    Which part isn't true?

  • Grumble says:

    There probably aren't many post-docs earning jsut $30k. From payscale.com:

    "Postdoctoral Research Associates in the United States can expect wages of $44K per year on average. The bottom of the pay range sits near $36K, and the top verges on $63K per year."

    But $36k is still a lot less than $48K. If a PI has three or four $36K postdocs, she might have to fire one of them to keep the others.

    And as I wrote above, there are places in the country where $36k is actually a reasonable salary - especially if that is a starting salary that gets raised by a few grand per year. So I am not convinced that a PI that pays her first-year post-docs $36k per year is necessarily a "bad actor." That is just the going rate in some places.

  • drugmonkey says:

    Ok, I'm listening.

  • jipkin says:

    DM - "Trainees always seem to assume [...]"

    People tend to engage in both wishful thinking and over-worrying. I imagine that those in labs where they know things are tight are probably worrying about how this is going to shake out for them. For those in labs where things don't seem that tight, then some optimism is warranted. Celebrate the wins, as you would say.

  • qaz says:

    @jmz4 - yes, they can. They will declare you at fault and charge your budgets for it. I've seen it happen.

    @DM - There are places in the USA where a person can live very comfortably at much less than $48k. (Perhaps not $30k, but certainly $40k.) There are universities where faculty make $45k. (Particularly in less research-income departments like English and the humanities.) And, truthfully, $48k is still going to be a starvation salary in some places. It is unfortunate that these numbers are not tuned to location. Living well on lower salaries tends to be in more rural and mid-western places, but there is very good science being done there (for much cheaper than at some of the ILAF schools) and there are funded R01s and postdocs there (really, there are) .

    Personally, I pay NIH NRSA because I *hate* negotiating money issues. It's difficult enough doing science without having to do all this running-a-small-business-sh*t on top of it.

  • jipkin says:

    IIRC the $47k number came from the 40th percentile of salaried workers in the lowest-paid region of the country (I believe the South).

  • drugmonkey says:

    Yes it did.

  • jmz4 says:

    "It is about "firing people who work for you". "

    People who have worked for you a max of 3 years and would probably be leaving in another two anyway. And who have something like 1.5 years to prepare for this (regs go into effect Jan 1 2017, you won't run out of their 2016 salary for another 10 months). Worst case you give them 2 months off. I'm not saying it'll be pleasant, but managers in the real world deal with much worse. Finally, we've talked about the postdoc glut being a problem before, so I don't see how else you thought it would be resolved. If this cuts some dead weight and discourages hiring more PDs, I'm all for it.
    And again, my salary isn't affected by this nor am I going to be fired to pay for other postdocs, so maybe that is influencing my opinion, but probably not as much as some PI who just saw 200 cages worth of mice dissapear from her budget.

    What about Research associate professors, are they exempt? If so, I could see a lot of PDs getting a promotion soon.

  • dnadrinker says:

    Interesting to see the comments by the rest of country on this issue:
    https://blog.dol.gov/2016/05/18/plenty-of-options-with-new-overtime-rule/#comments

    Clearly, the small business owners are going to take a hit and they aren't happy.

  • drugmonkey says:

    jmz4- yes, I understand how from your perspective "fuck those unspecified weaksauce postdocs I'm imagining" looks simple and painless. It's different for the non-sociopath PI.

  • jmz4 says:

    @DM, I'm not a PI, sociopath or otherwise, so I've never had to do a lab budget. You're the one claiming you're going to have to fire PDs and so I'm taking that position for granted. Also, I said I knew it wouldn't be painless. But neither is working 60 hours a week for 37k.

    Given your assertion, what I'm saying is that almost two years notice before termination in a position that is supposed to be temporary (3-5 years) isn't the worst deal in the world. What I meant to add was an exhortation to the PIs to tell their PDs, if they have to let them go, as soon as possible. Don't try to cover it up or avoid the subject and tell them everything is fine, then drop the hammer a month or two before the money runs out.

    What I actually suspect is that many labs can limp along with their current 1-3 year postdocs until they hit the exemption limit, so the main effect will be the a reduction in the hiring of new PDs, which is nearly universally acknowledged as a good thing that needs to happen eventually.

  • drugmonkey says:

    what I'm saying is that almost two years notice before termination in a position that is supposed to be temporary (3-5 years) isn't the worst deal in the world.

    What "two years notice"? You are not listening to me. If your threshold for "notice before termination" is uncertainty of the future lab funding, what you don't seem to understand is that being on this notice is SOP for my postdocs at all times.

    Don't try to cover it up or avoid the subject and tell them everything is fine, then drop the hammer a month or two before the money runs out.

    I keep my postdocs (actually everyone) aware of grant timelines and where everything stands (now). I do not encourage them to actually look at my accounts as this degree of specificity doesn't help. Nobody in my lab "deserves" access to any particular pot of money. I am the deciderer, as Bush famously put it.

    What I actually suspect is that many labs can limp along with their current 1-3 year postdocs until they hit the exemption limit, so the main effect will be the a reduction in the hiring of new PDs

    This is how many PIs will choose to deal, yes. That is because we are always optimistically submitting grants like crazy hoping another one will hit and make things rosy for another few months. The upshot of this delaying action is, however, less productivity.

    which is nearly universally acknowledged as a good thing that needs to happen eventually.

    Like hell it is. It is a horrible and inhumane approach to the too-many-mouths problem to further reduce the job space for academic PhDs who want academic science jobs. I advocate throttling down on production, not kicking newly-minted PhDs in the teeth.

  • JL says:

    jmz4,

    So, it's evil to fire a PD with two months notice, but it is for their own good to fire them. Got it.
    And you still wonder whether your point of view is biased by what you think will/might happen to you?

    How is 1 Jan 2017 1.5 years away from now?

  • Zb says:

    I completely disagree that the right time to limit the opportunity is before the degree rather than before the postdoc. So I think this increase in cost is a good thing for the pipeline.

    And, it will be a shorter term signal to those entering the pipeline -- they can query if everyone found a job post phd, rather than grad programs using the post doc holding pen as excuses for their programs.

  • jmz4 says:

    "What "two years notice"? "
    "How is 1 Jan 2017 1.5 years away from now?"
    Because the money that would have paid them through the end of 2017 will now only last until October of 2017. You don't have to fire them right away, but if you determine you won't be able to support them, you should let them know in advance.

    "So, it's evil to fire a PD with two months notice, but it is for their own good to fire them."
    Not their own good, no. And yes, if you know for a full year that you won't be able to pay your postdocs and do your experiments, it is absolutely irresponsible to not tell your PDs with enough notice for them to plan to transition.

    "It is a horrible and inhumane approach to the too-many-mouths problem to further reduce the job space for academic PhDs who want academic science jobs."
    -The postdoc holding tank and pipeline bloat creates all sorts of labor market distortions that are rippling out and hurting everyone with a PhD by layering another credentialing process on top of the PhD (while conveniently providing cheap labor). It's kicking newly minted PhDs in the teeth no matter where they go. You want a job in industry, go PD for a couple years in a disease centered lab. Editor position, oh, it'd be good if you PD'd in the subject of the journal. Even consulting positions prefer PD experience.

    I'd prefer reducing the number of PDs hired going forward to reducing the ones already there. Easiest way is to gradually ramp up the salary and try to create permanent positions to do the labor.
    The NIH just has to remember to do the second part if its going to do the first.

  • lincolnx says:

    Why does this policy not incentivize shifting of resources over time from postdocs to taking on more graduate students? Many PIs I know will just throw up their hands and just take on more grad students and low level techs.

  • MF says:

    An interesting twist is that, apparently, anyone who qualifies as a "teacher" (including university faculty and instructors) is exempt from the 47K salary floor. So any faculty member who is getting paid less than that, will not be entitled to overtime pay and will not have to clock their hours.

  • […] 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 […]

  • jipkin says:

    lincolnx, that will depend on the institution and GS pay. In neuroscience, it's not uncommon for grad students to cost as much as early-career postdocs once tuition and benefits are factored in.

  • […] public service announcement. There is great hoof-ha about postdocs (ah-gain) and technicians (I've added to the hubbub) and lots of people saying lots of things, some […]

  • jmz4 says:

    http://www.ascb.org/fair-labor-standards-act-means-postdocs/

    Links to the blogs discussion on the topic.

  • […] recent activity with regard to compensation for post-doctoral fellows got me thinking about this topic again. Here, […]

  • The new overtime rules are going to negatively affect a lot more individuals than currently believed. New college graduates are likely to see a decrease in salary for those jobs that are below the threshold so that companies can compensate for anticipated salaries in those jobs. Additionally we anticipate that there will be fewer internships offered, businesses instead preferring to opt for part time positions that won't be likely to use overtime and won't need benefits. The effects will be felt far and wide by the education industry.

  • Ravinder Kumar says:

    I have one doubt
    since new pay scale will be effective from Dec 1, 2016. What will be the pay scale for fresh postdoc who joins in Nov 2016 on NIH-funded project, will his/her pay scale change in Dec or will it be good to join in Dec 2016 only.

  • dnadrinker says:

    Uhoh . ..

    A federal judge issued a preliminary injunction against these new rules that were due to go into effect on December 1. Google "FLSA injunction" for more information.

    Many universities have already issued rules upping the postdoc minimum. Will they stick to it? Will they back off?

    Interesting to see how this plays out.

  • drugmonkey says:

    "Interesting"'for those who are not postdocs. Maddening for those who are.

  • dnadrinker says:

    It sounds like well over half the postdocs in the country have already been informed that their institutions will raise the minimum.

    http://futureofresearch.org/2016/11/21/10-days-to-the-flsa-update-what-institutions-are-doing-and-how-postdocs-will-be-affected/

    I can't believe any reputable place would go back on that commitment. Any place that doesn't keep up with that standard is crying out "we are second rate". I just want to see what institutions declare themselves second rate.

    I have to believe the tragedy here is not the postdocs, since they will get their raises, but all the retail managers out there making $30k/year with no overtime since they are management.

  • jmz4 says:

    We'll see. I think if the NIH doesn't reset its NRSF standards, most institutions won't either. But I could easily see the NIH walking back the pay raises for the lower tiers, since they typically adjust the salaries in January anyway. And my guess is Trump will kill this regulation if it doesn't go into effect before he becomes President.

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