As California wage and hour lawyers we read with interest the United States Supreme Court’s opinion in Christopher v. SmithKlineBeecham Corp., in which the Court recently determined that pharmaceutical sales representatives, also referred to as “detailers,” come within the “outside salesman” exemption to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). This result means that these workers are not entitled to receive overtime wages.
As our readers are aware, the FLSA requires that employers compensate certain employees with overtime pay. Employees considered “outside salesmen” are not entitled to this benefit. The definition of this class of employees has been left to the Department of Labor and in this case, the Court had to determine whether the pharmaceutical detailers are in fact “outside salesmen” as defined by the DOL regulations.
In the case before the court, the workers sought additional pay when working outside the normal 40 hour work week. The case is unusual because the pharmaceutical industry is so highly regulated, the detailers may only visit physicians to seek their non-binding commitment to prescribe the drugs they make. They don’t make sales in the traditional sense of a sales activity in which an actual sale is made. The detailers not only visit doctors’ offices, they also provide other information to medical personnel through various events to make them aware of the drugs their companies have to offer them for prescriptions to their patients.