Supreme Court to Decide Issue of Pharma Reps’ Overtime Status

Federal appeals courts have ruled differently on the issue of whether pharmaceutical sales representatives are or are not exempt from the overtime pay provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), so today the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to consider the issue.

The case in question is Christopher v. SmithKline Beecham Corp. Christopher and other such plaintiffs argue that their positions do not entail sales but merely the representation of the pharmaceutical companies in a function similar to public relations. Thus they are due overtime pay as non-exempt employees and are not exempt from FLSA time-and-a-half provisions as outside sales representatives.

An interconnected issue is whether the courts are obliged to follow interpretations of the FLSA by the Department of Labor (DOL). Before 2009, the DOL maintained that pharmaceutical representatives do indeed fall under the FLSA's definition of outside sales representatives, who are exempt employees and not subject to federal overtime rules, but the department shifted its position when the Obama administration was sworn in.

As for deferring to the DOL's interpretation, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that it had no such obligation while the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court did so defer. 

Now it is in the Supreme Court's hands to rule on who or what rules.

To help employers and human resource professionals to better and more correctly classify employees as exempt and non-exempt, Personnel Concepts has developed a comprehensive FLSA Compliance Program. Get yours today and protect yourself against charges of past-due overtime pay and other FLSA-related issues.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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