Changes to Minimum Postdoctoral and Research Scientist Salaries for Compliance with Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)

 

Changes to Minimum Postdoctoral and Research Scientist Salaries for Compliance with Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)

Dear Colleagues,

In June, former Vice President for Research David Conover wrote advising of important changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) that will impact some grant-funded positions, such as postdoctoral associates (postdocs) and research scientists.  These changes will be effective on December 1, 2016.  Here, we provide guidance to principal investigators (PIs) and departments to ensure compliance and to allow PIs to plan appropriately for future proposal submissions.

What are the changes to the FLSA?

The new FLSA requirement, effective December 1, 2016, increases the minimum salary threshold for exemption from overtime provisions to $913 weekly ($1826 bi-weekly or $47,476 annually). Positions with a salary below the new threshold will be non-exempt and entitled to overtime compensation for work exceeding 40 hours/week at 1.5 times the normal hourly rate under the new rules.  The revisions also include a provision to update the threshold automatically every 3 years, with an estimated threshold of $51,168 in 2020.  

Currently, Research Foundation (RF) Postdoctoral Associates, Senior Postdoctoral Associates, Research Scientists, and Senior Research Scientists are classified as exempt employees and are not eligible for overtime pay.  We have determined that approximately 68 RF postdocs and 40 research-related positions funded by grants currently have annualized salaries that fall below the new threshold of $47,476.  Under the new FLSA rules, these employees would be classified as nonexempt and eligible for overtime pay.  

Guidance to ensure compliance with new FLSA rules

After careful consideration of both financial and scholarly concerns, including recommendations from federal funding agencies, discussions with senior academic administrators, and actions taken by peer institutions, the Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR) provides the following guidelines for PIs:

1)  The minimum salary for Research Foundation (RF) Postdoctoral Associates, Senior Postdoctoral Associates, Research Scientists, and Senior Research Scientists will be no less than the new FLSA threshold of $913 weekly ($1826 bi-weekly or $47,476 annually).  For any postdoc (or person in related positions identified above) whose annualized salary falls below the threshold, the salary should be increased to meet or exceed the threshold on or before November 15, 2016.  This will ensure that the incumbent remains exempt from the provisions of the FLSA regulations.    

For many of these positions the differential to meet the new threshold is relatively small, amounting to a few thousand dollars or less.  For some PIs with limited budgets in existing grants, we are aware that an increase in salary for a postdoc or related research position may pose a budgetary challenge.  PIs are reminded that redistribution of funds within an existing budget is permitted for most grants.

2)  Effective Oct. 10, 2016, new proposal submissions that include support for a postdoc or related research position must provide in the budget a salary rate that meets or exceeds the threshold set by the Dept. of Labor for exempt status under the new FLSA rules ($913 weekly or $1826 bi-weekly).  NIH has announced increased stipend levels for NRSA-supported postdocs effective Dec. 1, 2016, and NSF expects that all new grants will comply with the institution’s policy on postdoc salaries (see links below).

For proposals that have been submitted and are awaiting a decision for funding, the Office of the Vice President for Research expects that PIs will ensure that postdoc salaries meet or exceed the new FLSA minimum salary threshold as described above.  This may require redistribution of funds within the budget.  PIs may also contact funding agency program managers concerning budget adjustments.

For general information related to the revisions to the FLSA, as it relates to compensation and overtime, please contact HRS – Classification and Compensation at HRS_flsa@stonybrook.edu.

For information related to redistribution of funds within a budget, please contact your grants administrator.

Richard J. Reeder
Interim Vice President for Research

 

Information provided by NIH and NSF:

Go to top