Beyond post docs, this will have a huge effect on lab techs! All of my techs work more than 40 hours a week…
with the justification:
The techs are mini grad students. First or second year out of college, with their own projects, working for a while before applying to grad school.
drugmonkey says in response: So what?
To which I add: are you kidding me? Techs are not mini-anything. They are techs. They may have more or less responsibility. They may have their own projects or not. They may want to go to grad school or med school or just pay back educational debt. And, while it is always best to work on the basis that other people are honest and forthright, it is not always so. A tech, who wants a job with you, may say what they think you want to hear. I know lots of basic science types who are not enthusiastic about pre-meds, and most pre-meds know this. You are not going to be privy to what they may truly think and want. They may not know what they think and want.
While working for you, your technicians are not getting course credit for what they do in your lab. They may be learning skills, but the ones you want and need and chose for them. You are paying fringe benefits not for a student, but for an employee, and these benefits are different at most places. These techs have a job to do. Most PI's I know would not tolerate in a tech what they do in a student. Most PI's have very different expectations of a tech than a student. You may say "this is not me, of course I treat everyone in my lab equally", and I will laugh. The people who are the most unequal in treatment, in my experience, are the ones who claim equality.
But the bottom-most line of the bottom lines is that they are human beings, working a job. One could argue that lower-level managers at fast food places want to move up. They are training to become something more than a low level manager. The whole point of the law is that it doesn't matter what you are or are not training for. Someone who is working a job that pays less than $47.4K gets overtime.
Personally, I dislike the exemptions. But a line needs to be drawn somewhere. There is a distinction between students and techs (leaving aside the postdoc issues, for now). If you have one tech who is "mini-training" and another who is not, does the one who is not training get overtime pay, and the one who is training does not? Your perception of their future is not where the line is drawn between exempt and non-exempt. The line drawn is between students who are registered and technicians who are not.
Ultimately, this tech may apply, and even go, to grad school. Maybe they won't. Maybe their experience with you will change their mind about future goals. But at this moment, their plans, whatever they are and whether you know them or not, do not change the contractual nature of the relationship between you and them. And that contract is governed by certain very specific laws in the United States.