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Obamacare’s Fast-Food Menu: Cutting Workers’ Hours for Some, Slower Growth for Others

Fast-food chains lobby to change how Obamacare defines “full time”
Obamacare???s Fast-Food Menu: Cutting Workers??? Hours for Some, Slower Growth for Others
Photograph by Luis M. Alvarez/AP Photo

Restaurant owners have serious issues with the Affordable Care Act. The sticking point for many is the legal definition of a full-time worker as anyone averaging at least 30 hours a week on the job. By 2015, any company with more than 50 such employees (including “full-time equivalent employees,” (PDF) according to the law) will have to offer health benefits. Restaurant execs have been meeting with Congress in a lobbying effort to nix the 30-hour rule.

Restaurant owners face two choices: If their businesses are profitable, they could dig into margins to cover the cost of insuring additional workers, thus curbing growth; or the owners could simply cut workers’ hours to stay away from the 30-hour threshold as much as possible. Some 16 percent of restaurant workers are at risk of reduced hours, according to estimates from the University of California at Berkeley’s Center for Labor Research and Education.