Depth of a Salesman

  • by: |
  • 04/20/2012

Earlier this week the Supreme Court heard arguments as to whether representatives of pharmaceutical companies are entitled to overtime. The answer, it seems, turns on whether those visits are actually sales calls.

According to Paul D. Clement, lawyer for the defendant, the pharmaceutical sales representatives plaintiffs, “ … were hired for a sales job. They were given sales training. They attend sales conferences. They are assigned to sales territory, and they are evaluated and compensated as salespeople.”

But, commented Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr, “They don’t do sales. Your long list sort of stopped one step short. They don’t make sales.”

As the New York Times accurately reports, industry reps “do not sell products in the strict sense of the term. Rather, they encourage doctors to write prescriptions for patients to buy drugs from pharmacies.”

Interesting semantical and practical questions and it’ll be interesting to see how the Supremes rule.  In the meantime here’s a related question – depending on the final judgment – will government detailers (aka “academic detailers”) qualify overtime pay? They’re not supposed to be “selling” anything either.  


Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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