Obamacare

Unintended Consequences of Obamacare (With Many More To Come)

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Olive Garden

If the government were to, somehow make full-time employees more expensive, perhaps through some oh-so-compassionate regulatory move known as the "Affordable Care Act," what might we expect employers to do when it comes to hiring and scheduling? Do they say, "aww, shucks," I guess we'll just have shoulder yet-higher costs in this really crappy economy? Or do they turn as many employees as possible into part-timers? Hmmm … Maybe I telegraphed the answer.

From the Orlando Sentinel:

In an experiment apparently aimed at keeping down the cost of health-care reform, Orlando-based Darden Restaurants has stopped offering full-time schedules to many hourly workers in at least a few Olive Gardens, Red Lobsters and LongHorn Steakhouses.

This truly sucks if you're a worker trying to piece together the paychecks needed to live a decent life. Now you have to scramble to pick up another part-time job, and neither will come with much in the way of benefits. OK, the feds will have some health program for you through the government-mandated exchanges, but goodbye vacation time and any other goodies that come from full-time status, such as manageable schedules.

Note that many pundits predicted that employers would drop health coverage in favor of paying the $2,000-per-worker fine because the penalty is below the cost of covering each employee. But employers can dodge that fine, too, by moving full-time workers to part-time status.

Darden Restaurants doesn't appear to be on its own in this innovative unintended consequence of the Affordable Care Act.

Analysts say many other companies, including the White Castle hamburger chain, are considering employing fewer full-timers because of key features of the Affordable Care Act scheduled to go into effect in 2014. Under that law, large companies must provide affordable health insurance to employees working an average of at least 30 hours per week.

If they do not, the companies can face fines of up to $3,000 for each employee who then turns to an exchange — an online marketplace — for insurance.

"I think a lot of those employers, especially restaurants, are just going to ensure nobody gets scheduled more than 30 hours a week," said Matthew Snook, partner with human-resources consulting company Mercer.

Of course, politicians will, no doubt, scramble to fix this insidious outcome not of the legislation they passed, but of the errors of the uncaring private sector. And that legislation will, certainly, have no more unintended consequences.