Postdoc Salaries: New salary threshold for overtime proposed for Fair Labor Standards Act

Postdoc Salaries: New salary threshold for overtime proposed for Fair Labor Standards Act

The data above is from our paper “Monitoring the compliance of the academic enterprise with the Fair Labor Standards Act” showing how institutions were expecting to change salaries after the last FLSA update was blocked.


The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) establishes standards such as minimum wage and overtime pay for employees in both the public and private sectors in the United States. Through the FLSA a minimum wage and overtime pay (for working more than 40 hours per week) at 1.5 times the employee’s regular rate are guaranteed (United States Department of Labor, 2016a).

On December 1, 2016, the FLSA was due to be updated by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). One key change proposed was an increase in the annual salary threshold for exemption from overtime pay from the 2004 level of $23,660 to $47,476. The other key change was indexing the salary level so that it would be updated automatically every 3 years pegged to the 40th percentile of full-time salaried workers in the lowest-wage Census region.

On December 1st, 2016, 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). This was delayed by an injunction granted November 22nd (see here for more information) and was declared invalid as of August 31st by the same court.

The Department of Labor has now proposed a new set of updates to formally retract and replace the 2016 proposal. The proposals:

  • would likely come into effect January 1st 2020
  • would raise the threshold for overtime exemption from $23,660 to $35,308 for the “white collar exemption” (the 2016 proposal was $47,476) and from $100,000 to $147,414 for Highly Compensated Employees (the 2016 proposal was $134,004).
  • would allow the thresholds to be updated every 4 years after a consultation period (currently there is no renewal mechanism built in – the last update was in 2004; the 2016 proposal called for a binding regular update, and is likely the component allowing a successful legal challenge that ultimately stopped the update from coming into effect).

When the commenting period begins, we will post the link to the Federal Register here.

Looking through our 2016 data of postdoc salaries (see our Postdoc Salary Resource), 4% (i.e. around 500) of all postdoc salaries in our sample were between $23,660 and $35,308, meaning the new update may have a potentially small impact. We are currently assessing our 2018 salary data to see whether that number remains at a similar level. However, it is possible that the number of people affected is not 0.

Contribute and see other postdoc salaries

Our salary data is currently only sourced from a set of U.S. public institutions – if you are a postdoc or know postdocs, we encourage you to anonymously deposit salaries at to help us in our data collection effort. You can also deposit benefits information to help other and potential postdocs.

Further Reading

You can read more about the 2016 updates, and we will post a link to the commenting opportunity at the federal register, at our FLSA and Postdocs site.

You can also read more about the FLSA in our paper, “Monitoring the compliance of the academic enterprise with the Fair Labor Standards Act“.

You can read more about postdoc salaries – and how the FLSA update, despite not coming into effect, had a significant impact on postdoc salaries – in our paper, “Assessing the landscape of US postdoctoral salaries“.

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