In the 5-4 Christopher v. Smithkline Beecham Corp. decision announced yesterday, the Supreme Court found that pharmaceutical sales reps do not enjoy the overtime protections of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

The pharmaceutical sales reps in this case worked between 50 and 70 hours a week and earned on average in excess of $70,000 annually.  A split between the Second Circuit and Ninth Circuit on whether the pharmaceutical sales reps are exempt from the FLSA’s overtime provisions led to the Supreme Court granting the certiorari petition in this case.  The Supreme Court found that the pharmaceutical sales reps qualify as outside salesmen – positions that are expressly exempted from the reach of the Statute.

In this case, the fact that the Petitioners made a good living apparently didn’t help their cause.  Justice Alito wrote for the majority, “Petitioners – each of whom earned an average of more than $70,000 per year … are hardly the kind of employees that the FLSA was intended to protect.”  An interesting comment given that most non-exempt employees are covered by the overtime provisions of the statute as long as they earn less than $100,000 a year – 43% more than the $70,000 earned by pharmaceutical sales reps at Smithkline.