SeaWorld Cutting Hours for Thousands of Workers, Will Avoid Obamacare Mandate


SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. will cut hours for thousands of part-time employees, which will allow the company to avoid offering those workers medical insurance as mandated by Obamacare, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

Of its 22,000 employees, 18,000 are part-time or seasonal workers. SeaWorld confirmed the decision in a letter to the newspaper, although it would not say explicitly whether the health care law was a factor.

Under a new corporate policy, SeaWorld will schedule part-time workers for no more than 28 hours a week, down from a previous limit of 32 hours a week. The new cap is expected to go into effect by November.

With the reduced hours, those employees would not be classified as full-time workers under the Affordable Care Act, the health-care overhaul championed by President Barack Obama and signed into law in 2010.

A central provision of that sweeping legislation will require large employers to offer comprehensive and affordable health insurance to all employees who work an average of at least 30 hours a week. The requirement, aggressively opposed by business-lobbying groups, was supposed to take effect this year but has been delayed until 2015.

In its written statement, SeaWorld said the change "is intended to bring consistency to the part-time designation across the SeaWorld Parks system." It would not say whether the federal health-care law was a factor.

SeaWorld is not alone among American businesses in slicing hours specifically to offset Obamacare, while others make similar moves but won't admit the reason why:

With the new insurance requirements looming, more companies are opting to reduce part-timers' hours. A recent survey by the human-resources consulting company Mercer found that 12 percent of U.S. employers — and 20 percent of retail and hospitality companies — say they plan to reduce workers' hours specifically because of the Affordable Care Act.

Earlier this summer, Orlando-based Earl Enterprises, which owns the Buca di Beppo Italian restaurant chain, acknowledged that it had cut hours for about 400 workers to fewer than 30 a week. The company's founder said the move was unrelated to the federal health-care changes, though some employees said they had been told by managers that Obamacare was to blame.

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