Supreme Court Nixes Overtime Pay For Drug Reps

overtime pay drug pharmaceutical repBy Mark Sherman

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court has ruled that sales representatives for pharmaceutical companies do not qualify for overtime pay under federal law, a big victory for the drug industry.

In a 5-4 decision Monday, the court's conservative majority concluded that the roughly 90,000 people who try to persuade doctors to prescribe certain drugs to their patients are not covered by the federal law governing overtime pay. Two salesmen who once worked for drug maker GlaxoSmithKline filed a class-action lawsuit claiming that they were not paid for the 10 to 20 hours they worked each week on average outside the normal business day. Their jobs required them to meet with doctors in their offices, but also to attend conventions, dinners, even golf outings.

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Many sales jobs are exempt from overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act. But unlike typical salespeople who often work on commission, pharmaceutical sales representatives cannot seal a deal with doctors. Federal law, in fact, forbids any binding agreement by a doctor to prescribe a specific drug.

Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the majority, said that the drug sales reps' "end goal was not merely to make physicians aware of the medically appropriate uses of a particular drug. Rather, it was to convince physicians actually to prescribe the drug in appropriate cases."

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Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas joined with Alito.

In dissent, Justice Stephen Breyer said the sales reps do not consummate sales and so should be allowed to claim overtime. Breyer referred to the employees not as salesmen, but as "detailers," as they are known in the industry. "The detailer's work, in my view, is more naturally characterized as involving `promotional activities designed to stimulate sales...made by someone else,'" Breyer said, quoting from federal regulations.

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor signed Breyer's dissent.

The Obama administration backed the sales reps and argued that they do not make sales, as the law requires for a job to be exempt from overtime.

The case is Christopher v. SmithKline Beecham Corp., 11-204.

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Actually, these people are salaried aka exempt employees. Therefore, they work to get the job done within a reasonable number of hours that they put in. This isn't about Pharma exclusively as most people who are salaried put in well over 40 hours per week. If they were paid hourly and punched a clock this would be a different story.

June 22 2012 at 8:26 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Hey James, what rock are you living under? Your President Obama is doing just what you are complaining about. The EPA is dictating with government regulations to every private business in this country, affecting all of us,
And YES it is called socialism!!

June 19 2012 at 4:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The government has no business sticking its ugly nose in private industry.. Next is the government will dictate salaries, benefits, schedules.... This is what is called socialism... But what can we expect from an out of touch SCOTUS?

June 19 2012 at 3:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Federal politicians are very responsive to the needs of big pharma. Pharma is one of the united snakes benefiting from illegal marijuana. The others are: the alcohol industry, the prison industry, the rehab industry and the drug testing industry and federal politicians. Pharma finds the idea of growing a multi purpose drug in the yard to be abhorrent.

June 19 2012 at 2:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

As a retired sales rep dealing with major OEM's, including NASA and the U.S. miitary, there is no overtime, as dinners, luncheons, trade shows and the like are part of the job.

June 19 2012 at 1:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

And the Supremes give Big Pharma yet another free ********.

June 19 2012 at 1:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

quit making up acronyms, like scotus, you potus to the flotus

June 19 2012 at 1:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I was a drug rep for five years before I moved up into marketing management and then executive management. Believe me, I knew of very few reps that put in even 40 hours, and they are also salaried with great benefits and a company car. Occasionally they have to go to sales meetings and/or medical conventions. These are partially boondoggles, and are not ALL work by any means. Not only that , they are eating at the finest restaurants at the company's expense. How dumb was this lawsuit?

June 19 2012 at 12:43 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Let's go Riding

Aw gee whiz, those poor white collar folks are getting screwed by the people that were appointed by the people they voted for.
Tough sh!t! Now you know how it feels.

June 19 2012 at 12:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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