Will I ever get paid overtime? Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), established in 1938, is a federal law that regulates overtime pay, minimum wage, child labor, and recordkeeping. This past Spring, the U.S. Department of Labor approved a proposal to increase the salary threshold to qualify for FLSA standards, meaning anyone working full-time and making less than $47,476 will qualify for FLSA benefits. The new salary threshold was expected to go into effect December 1, 2016; however, it was recently blocked by a Texas judge. Although this ruling has been halted, we want to keep APAGS members informed as to how its roll-out will affect them should this injunction be dismissed. Below we answer some of the biggest questions about the proposed FLSA changes to help you stay informed.

What is FLSA’s potential impact on internship positions?

The quick answer is: it depends. APA has recently released a statement on this and how it may or may not affect psychology interns.

According to the Department of Labor (DOL), an intern would not be considered an employee subject to FLSA if six conditions are met:

  1. the training or internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to that which would be given in a vocational school
  2. the training is for the benefit of the interns
  3. the interns do not displace regular employees, but work under close observation
  4. the employer that provides the training or internship derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the interns, and on occasion the employer’s operations may actually be impeded
  5. the interns are not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the training period
  6. the employer and the interns understand that they are not entitled to wages for the time spent in training or the internship.

When we look at the Commission on Accreditation (CoA) guidelines that APA-accredited internship programs follow, it is likely that internships fulfill the six conditions (and are therefore not eligible for overtime pay) but may differ from site-to-site. It is hence important to engage in this conversation with the internship site.

How will FLSA’s impact postdoctoral positions?

The FLSA update will change the game a bit for postdocs. With respect to research positions, the choice facing universities is to support tracking postdoc hours in order to pay overtime, or increase starting salaries to the $47,476 threshold. The National Institutes of Health (NIH), who often sets the standard for research pay, has already voiced support of the salary increase; therefore, it is likely universities will follow suite.  With respect to clinical post-docs, it will depend largely on the employer.  Those employed in hospital settings and universities are likely to see their starting salaries increased.  Those with private employers, however, may not see the salary increase but may be eligible for overtime pay if they make less than the threshold.  

Considering this, in the coming year postdocs in all areas may expect (1) an increased salary; but (2) fewer available postdoc positions. The rationale behind this second point is that while postdoc salaries will increase, funding from government sources  will not change, thereby squeezing available funds available to hire postdocs. While the scientific community expects that this will increase competition in the job market, exactly how competitive it will become is unknown.


To get more information about how the FLSA changes may impact you and what you can do about it, consider the following resources:  

Questions for Readers

  • Have you been personally impacted by this new proposal from The U.S. Department of Labor?  If so, how?
  • What are ways that graduate students can work with supervisors, researchers, and other clinicians to navigate this change in the FLSA?
  • Have you found other helpful resources regarding how the new FLSA regulations will be implemented December 1, 2016?

Please feel free to share your thoughts!

Editor’s Note: This post was co-authored by Jacklynn FitzGerald (APAGS Member-at-Large, Science Focus), Jerrold Yeo (APAGS Member-at-Large, Practice Focus), Roseanne [last name] (position), and Blaire Schembari (APAGS Member-at-Large, Education Focus).