Darden Restaurants has stopped offering full-time schedules to many hourly workers in a few of its Olive Garden, Red Lobster and LongHorn Steakhouse eateries.
Darden is reportedly taking the action to avoid the Affordable Care Act, which is scheduled to go into effect in 2014, reports Fox 35 (video below).
Under that law, also known as Obamacare, companies must provide affordable health insurance to employees working an average of at least 30 hours per week.
In an emailed statement to the Orlando Sentinel, Darden stated that cutting hours is "just one of the many things we are evaluating to help us address the cost implications health care reform will have on our business. There are still many unanswered questions regarding the health care regulations and we simply do not have enough information to make any decisions at this time."
Under the system that Darden is testing, certain employees are to be scheduled for no more than 28 hours each week.
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Rich Jeffers, Director of Communications at Darden, sent Opposing Views the following email statement:
Many reports said Darden was moving to a part-time workforce exclusively and that the company was moving its full-timers to part-time roles. That was never the case.
Darden was simply working to figure out how the company was going to handle the healthcare costs it will face starting in 2014. One of many solutions Darden has been considering would be to adjust its full-time/ part-time mix. However, Darden was clear in saying it would not make any decisions that would have an impact on our guest experience or employee engagement.
While Darden does not yet have a final staffing model for 2014, today’s announcement confirms Darden’s primary theory: its full-time employees are an integral part of its success. And, the data Darden collected around ‘guest experience’ proved this out. Darden will not sacrifice guest satisfaction – or employee engagement – for the sake of labor cost savings.