In what is becoming an all too familiar trend, the U.S. Supreme Court’s right wing majority once again sided with the pharmacuetical industry and ruled against the clear overtime rights of its workers. 

In Christopher v. SmithKline Beecham Corp, the majority held that these workers “make sales” even though no sale occurs when they visit physicians.  In fact, as a matter of law, those reps may not make sales.  Instead, they promote the product in the hopes that the physician will later prescribe it and that that even later, the patient will purchase it from a pharmacy.  Despite the general rule that overtime laws are to be construed narrowly and remedially in favor of employees, this business oriented court took great pains to rule against these workers.

Over and over again Justice Alito discussed how much money the reps make.   “Petitioners were well compensated for their efforts, and their gross pay included both a base salary and incentive pay.”  Of course, that fact has no place in this analysis. This language betrays the pro-business inclination of this five justice majority.

Writing for the dissent, Justice Breyer explained why these workers did not meet the definition of outside sales persons:

“Given the fact that the doctor buys nothing, the fact that the detailer sells nothing to the doctor,and the fact that any “nonbinding commitment” by the doctor must, of ethical necessity, be of secondary importance, there is nothing about the detailer’s visit withthe doctor that makes the visit (or what occurs during the visit) “tantamount . . . to a paradigmatic sale.”

This case is a clear example of why presidential elections matter.  The only way that workers are going to secure their rights in this country is by electing Democratic presidents who appoint justices who will protect their rights.