On Dec 1st, the threshold at which salaried workers receive overtime payment for working more than 40 hours per week will increase from $23,660 to $47,476 per year, under updates to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). All postdocs working in the U.S. who are not in a primarily teaching role, come under this ruling, regardless of visa or fellowship status.

In gathering information for the FLSA and postdocs resource, interesting interpretations about the law or how the law will be implemented appear from various institutions. One case that has come up is in the information recently distributed by Brandeis University, in particular on the subject of postdoctoral “fellows” i.e. those postdocs paid on training mechanisms:




While Brandeis may define postdocs as employees or trainees internally, this is likely superseded by federal definitions. A postdoc is federally recognized as both a trainee and an employee (Code of Federal Regulations, Title 2, part 200.400(f)) and unless they are in a primarily teaching role, all postdocs regardless of funding source and visa status come under the FLSA (see Overtime Final Rule and Higher Education).

Under our understanding, if these Fellows are to be called postdocs, then that means Brandeis must track hours or raise the salaries (or compel PIs to do so) if the funding agencies will not do it, or Brandeis must no longer accept postdoctoral fellows funded by these agencies. If not, the title must be changed from postdoc.

We have contacted Brandeis for more information on how this interpretation came about and the legal basis that Brandeis has for making this decision.