Reacting to the overtime rule changes for postdocs and technicians

Lenny Teytelman May 20, 2016

Almost a year ago, Justin Kiggins wrote on our Spectroscope: Postdocs will be getting a raise. He discussed that Obama's proposed changes to overtime compensation would likely include postdocs. Nature covered this and there was active blogger and Twitter discussion around this (see here, here, and here for some heated discussions).

Alas, somehow the director of NIH Francis Collins seems to have missed this. So now that the proposed changes are becoming the rule, he writes in Fair Pay for Postdocs: Why We Support New Federal Overtime Rules:

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.

One might have imagined that NIH and others would have been working over the past year to find these solutions, but that doesn't appear to have been the case. Hence, understandably, there is a lot of anxiety among faculty in terms of what this means. Professors have a lot of legitimate questions on how to respond to this.

As faculty react and discuss this, many are making the mistake of saying "But postdocs/labtechs are training like graduate students, why should I pay overtime"?  If you are thinking along these lines, please read, Technicians are not grad students in training. Also, a quick reminder:

  • Technicians are not graduate students
  • Graduate students are not technicians
  • Postdocs are not graduate students