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For All Those Late Nights in the Lab

Postdocs in the US are hoping that a coming change to labor law will make them eligible for overtime pay, Nature News reports.

At the end of June, President Barack Obama announced a rule change that would shift the salary threshold below which salaried workers qualify for time-and-a-half pay for overtime work to $50,440 a year from $23,660 a year, the New York Times says.

"We've got to keep making sure hard work is rewarded," Obama writes in an op-ed at the Huffington Post. "Right now, too many Americans are working long days for less pay than they deserve." 

This caught the attention of Justin Kiggins, a graduate student at the University of California, San Diego, at the Spectroscope. He notes that the National Institutes of Health standard minimum salary for postdocs is $42,840, suggesting that postdocs may soon be eligible for overtime pay or may get a pay boost to push them over that threshold.

However, Dennis Eckmeier, a postdoc at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, suspects that funding agencies and universities will seek an exemption for postdocs. "The whole [research] system relies on highly qualified people working crazy hours for little salary for roughly a decade," he tells Nature News.

Whether these changes will be applicable to postdocs isn't clear, Nature News adds. Belinda Huang, executive director of the National Postdoctoral Association, says that the rules as currently written exempt "scientists" from overtime pay, but not "technicians."

A comment period on the proposed rules is open through the beginning of September.