U pledges to move forward with postdoc salary increase

The decision comes after a U.S. District Court judge put down an injunction on the changes eight days before they were meant to go into effect.

David Clarey

While a court order could jeopardize a long sought-after pay raise for postdoctoral researchers, the University of Minnesota has pledged to move forward.

Citing an overstep of boundaries, a Texas U.S. District Court judge put a temporary injunction on President Obama’s update to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) on Nov. 22 that was meant to raise the minimum salary floor for some postdoctoral STEM researchers, or require overtime pay for some who were previously exempt.

The University has pledged to raise the salary floor for postdocs from the federal standard of $23,660 to $47,476 — regardless of the injunction — according to an email written by Vice President for Human Resources, Kathy Brown, to University Postdoctoral Association President, Geoffrey Rojas.

The update was set to change nationally on Dec. 1 and would affect close to 4.2 million workers, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

In the FLSA update, the minimum salary threshold would see an update every three years with the first taking place in 2020.

“The discussions have been going on for twenty years … to say this is a very sudden burden, it’s disingenuous,” Rojas said.

Rojas said he was confident that the University would move forward with the raise, despite the injunction.

About 550 of the University’s nearly 800 postdocs in STEM will get a raise, he said.

University Law Professor Stephen Befort said there’s never been a provision like this in the FLSA before.

Employers who already began the process of making changes or have already communicated with employees now have a difficult decision to make — put it on hold, or go ahead and make the change anyway, said Ryan Mick, a lawyer at Dorsey Law Firm’s Minneapolis branch.

While Mick said it’s too early to know for sure, he thinks this will become a permanent injunction.