Pharmaceutical sales reps are not entitled to overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act, according to the Supreme Court of the United States. The Court held, in Christopher v. SmithKline Beecham Corp., that pharmaceutical sales reps are properly considered "outside sales" and are exempt from overtime pay requirements.
Drug reps, also called 'detailers,' account for about 90,000 employees nationwide. The Supreme Court noted that, as a whole, the profession is well-paid for the time spent working despite it often exceeding 40 hours per week. The Department of Labor (DOL) had argued that pharmaceutical sales reps should not be considered outside sales for the purposes of overtime calculation, but the Court was not convinced.
DOL asserted that pharmaceutical sales reps do not actually "sell" in the true sense of the word and should not be categorized as outside salesmen. The Court did not agree that the categorization required that drug reps actually consummate a sales transaction (or transfer title to property) to be appropriately classified as outside salespeople, exempt from overtime pay.
A divided court considered pharmaceutical sales representatives to be outside sales. A four-person dissent asserted that the main purpose of a detailer's job is not to make or consummate sales of the drugs they promote, making the classification of outside salesperson inappropriate. A detailer may suggest that a doctor prescribe a specific drug, the doctor may do so if a patient presents with the applicable symptoms, but a pharmacist is ultimately the one who will sell the drug or an available generic of it.
Source: Courthouse News, "No Overtime for Pharmaceutical Sales Reps, Supreme Court Says," Barbara Leonard, June 18, 2012