University Policy Concerning Department of Lab or Overtime Rules and Postdoctoral Researchers

Please see the policy (below) sent to Deans on June 3 by the Provost’s Office.  The policy includes budgeting guidance for postdoctoral salaries included in proposals to external organizations.

Mike Ludwig
Associate Vice President for Research Administration & Director, URA

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To: Deans and Associate Deans
From: Ronald Thisted, Vice Provost for Academic Affairs
Re: University Policy Concerning Department of Labor Overtime Rules and Postdoctoral Researchers
Date: 3 June 2016

Please circulate this to Directors, Department Chairs, and Departmental Executive Administrators

The U.S. Department of Labor has recently released revised regulations that significantly change criteria for when workers qualify for overtime payments. In the past, with some exceptions, employees making less than $23,660/year were entitled to overtime pay. The new regulation raises that threshold to $47,476/year effective December 1, 2016. Some employee groups across the University will be affected by this change, and Human Resources will be issuing guidance shortly on dealing with the new requirements for staff employees.

This message focuses specifically on the impact that the new rules have on postdoctoral researchers, as the change will necessarily affect the compensation of some Postdoctoral Scholars, as well as the budgeting and planning for their compensation on sponsored proposals and awards.

As described in the Postdoctoral Researcher Policy Manual, there are two kinds of University postdoctoral appointments: (1) Postdoctoral Scholars, who are employees of the University, and (2) Postdoctoral Fellows, who are paid stipends by extramural agencies. Postdoctoral Fellows may be paid through the University on behalf of the funding source or directly by the funding source without University involvement (Postdoctoral Fellows—Paid Direct). In either case, Postdoctoral Fellows are not employees of the University, and thus any obligations related to funding are borne by their funding source.

The remainder of this memo details University policy resulting from the new Department of Labor regulations for these categories of postdoctoral researchers.

Postdoctoral Scholars

Effective December 1, 2016, minimum salaries for all Postdoctoral Scholars must be at least $47,478 per year ($3,956.50 per month). [For technical reasons, the mandated University minimum exceeds the Department of Labor threshold by $2 per year.]

Budgeting and planning for the increase in salaries necessary to raise all Postdoctoral Scholars to this new minimum level should begin immediately. Effective immediately, funding proposals submitted to external organizations must reflect the new minimum level. Principal investigators of funded projects employing Postdoctoral Scholars who currently are paid below the minimum level should begin planning now to accommodate the increase in salary to the new $47,478 minimum level that takes effect this December.

Funding for any salary increases should come from grant budgets, or from other funds available to principal investigators.

Postdoctoral Fellows

Postdoctoral Fellows supported by an external training grant or fellowship are not University employees and are not directly affected by the Department of Labor rule. Federal funding agencies are considering whether to adjust stipends to reflect the Department of Labor’s new rules. For example, NIH has announced that they intend to increase the awards for postdoctoral NRSA recipients to raise the stipend level above the Federal $47,476 threshold. It is not clear yet whether other providers of fellowship support for postdoctoral researchers will follow NIH’s lead. URA staff will work with the Faculty lead of those fellowship awards to follow up as appropriate with the sponsors of those awards.

Postdoctoral Fellows (direct pay)

As mentioned above, these appointees are not University employees. As such, no actions need to be taken by the University for these appointees.