Supreme Court: Architectural Reps ineligible for overtime

A "detailer", in pharmaceutical parlance, is a person that calls on doctors to introduce new drugs and provide samples. There are also building product detailers, the factory representative that calls on architects or engineers, but does not negotiate or handle sales to dealers or contractors. Also known as "Architectural Reps", they introduce products, provide samples, offer continuing education programs, and assist in specification writing.

A recent Supreme Court decision may affect the way Architectural Reps are paid.

Federal law exempts outside sales people from overtime-pay regulations. This was challenged by several drug detailers, in a class action supported by the US Dept. of Labor, that argued pharmaceutical sales representatives were different from traditional salespeople because they don't actually sell medicines to doctors but merely promote them. Court, in a 5-4 decision, didn't by this prescription.

Justice Alito dismissed that argument as "quite unpersuasive," saying drug representatives effectively function as salespeople "in the unique regulatory environment within which pharmaceutical companies must operate," an environment that prohibits MDs from reselling drugs.

Justice Stephen Breyer, writing for the dissenters, said the representatives' primary duty is to provide doctors with information about drugs. If a particular drug is the best treatment for a patient, a doctor will prescribe it "irrespective of any nonbinding commitment" he made to a sales representative, Justice Breyer said.

Pharmaceutical sales representatives are typically paid a combination of base salary and performance-based commission, earning a median pay exceeding $90,000 a year.

It is not clear how this decision will effect industries outside of pharmaceuticals. Building product manufacturers with detailers may want to discuss the new ruling with their HR lawyer.

Photo by RayNata used under Creative Commons License.