Olive Garden, Others to Cut Worker Hours in Advance of Obamacare

Company has been ardent 'Let's Move' supporter, CEO has given big to Dems


The owner of Olive Garden and Red Lobster will shift more employees to part-time status in a trial designed to minimize the impact of new requirements imposed by the Affordable Care Act.

Darden Restaurants, which owns the two chains among others, employs approximately 180,000 people, and will test the part-time strategy in four markets, according to the Associated Press.

Darden will stop offering full-time schedules to many of its employees in an attempt to combat the higher costs of Obamacare. Darden told the Orlando Sentinel that staffing changes are "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."

Despite the company's current approach to President Obama's signature legislative achievement, Darden has in the past had a very friendly relationship with the administration.

The company was granted a waiver for the Affordable Care Act in 2010 for more than 30,000 of its employees, according to the New York Times.

The chief executive officer of Darden Restaurants, Clarence Otis, has contributed more than $94,000 to federal candidates during the last three cycles, almost entirely to Democrats. Otis has donated at least $4,600 to Obama and $59,300 to the Democratic National Convention since 2007. In July 2011, Otis had lunch with Obama to discuss jobs and the economy. According to the White House visitor logs, Otis has visited the Obama White House at least three times, including a meeting with Valerie Jarrett just one month before Obamacare was signed into law.

Darden has been an ardent supporter of Michelle Obama’s very controversial "Let’s Move" initiative. In September 2011, Michelle Obama endorsed menu changes at Olive Garden and Red Lobster. Olive Garden’s "Tour of Italy" packs an impressive 1,450 calories, 74 grams of fat, and 3,830 milligrams of sodium. Red Lobster’s "Admiral’s Feast" clocks in at a measly 1,280 calories, 73 grams of fat, and 4,300 milligrams of sodium.

It would require quite a bit of hula hooping to burn off that meal.

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