New federal overtime rules likely to have implications for pharmacy residents

Physicians and medical residents continue to be exempt from wage and overtime regulations, but pharmacists in residency programs are not

New federal rules could raise pharmacy residents’ salary as pharmacy resident programs must comply with a final rule issued by the Department of Labor (DoL) that takes effect December 1, 2016.

Employers must increase minimum salary for certain employees to keep them exempt from wage regulations, such as those related to overtime pay. According to APhA, the final rule does not exempt pharmacy residents, leaving them among the millions of health care workers who will soon see a bigger paycheck.

Under the final rule, the initial increase to the Fair Labor Standards Act minimum salary level to qualify for an exemption is from $455 to $913 per week (i.e., from $23,660 to $47,476 annually). Future automatic updates to the thresholds will occur every 3 years, starting on January 1, 2020.

Practicing physicians—including medical residents—are not entitled to a minimum salary or overtime because they qualify for an exemption for the practice of medicine. According to APhA comments to DoL, pharmacy residents should qualify for the same exemption as medical residents because pharmacists cannot accept a residency until they have completed their PharmD—just as medical residents must complete specialized education before being permitted to practice as a resident.

APhA wrote in comments to DoL on its proposed rule that the new rules could place a prohibitive strain on already cash-strapped residency training programs, particularly those that are community-based, and could have a damaging effect on patients.

APhA also requested more flexibility in the implementation of the new rule.

“Without proper time to plan for salary increases,” the Association wrote, “entities, many of which are community pharmacies as well as small businesses, may face budget constraints and some may be forced to discontinue these important programs that assist in training pharmacists as clinical care providers.”

Pharmacy technicians may be affected by the DoL final rule, depending on their job duties.