Retail Groups Applaud House Bill That Redefines “Full-Time” in Health Law

Passage in the House on Thursday of the "Save American Workers Act," which would change the definition of a full-time work week under the Affordable Care Act to 40 hours or more, drew wide praise from trade organizations, especially those in the hospitality and convenience industries.

One of the more controversial provisions in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was in the spotlight again this week in the House, and associations in the retail industry are cheering.

H.R. 2575, the Save American Workers Act, passed on Thursday with some bipartisan support, though most of the votes came from the Republican side of the aisle. The bill would roll back the healthcare law’s stipulation that when determining an employer’s insurance obligations, full-time employees are defined as those who work 30 or more hour per week. The legislation has the backing of a number of trade groups, especially in the hospitality and convenience sectors.

A roundup of association responses to the bill’s passage:

Restaurants: The National Restaurant Association said the change would provide “significant relief” to the industry and praised efforts to bring multiple parties to the table to work out a compromise. “The restaurant and food service industries are attractive to millions of Americans nationwide looking for flexible work schedules,” the association stated. “Setting an artificially low, bright line as to who is considered full-time and who is considered part-time will force employers to limit that flexibility.”

Convenience stores: NACS, The Association for Convenience and Fuel Retailing, expressed a similar view, noting that industry members sent 1,500 letters supporting the bill within the past week.

Hotels: The American Hotel and Lodging Association, which represents businesses that employ a combined 1.8 million workers, says the ACA’s 30-hour threshold is “arbitrary” and would cause many small businesses to reduce their employees’ hours to less than 30 per week. “As a result, the law would inject uncertainty into their team members’ work schedules and in many instances necessitate working extra jobs to make up the income shortfall,” the group argued.

Grocery stores: The Food Marketing Institute suggested that the tide was turning on the issue. “There is a growing consensus that the ACA’s redefining a full-time employee as someone who averages 30 hours per week is impacting the American workforce—both in workers’ take-home pay and operating a variable-hour business like a supermarket,” Jennifer Hatcher, the group’s senior vice president of government and public affairs, said in a statement. The National Grocers Association, meanwhile, added that the healthcare law’s 30-hours-per-week designation “does not reflect the needs of our members’ workforces.”

President Obama has said that he would veto the measure if it showed up on his desk. The legislation stands little chance of making it through the Democratic-controlled Senate, though The Washington Post noted that the chamber’s majority leadership appeared to be showing some flexibility on the issues raised by the restaurant industry in particular.

“There are legitimate concerns expressed in many industries, including restaurants, about how we’re going to define a full-time employee,” Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-IL) told the Post. “Let’s sit down and work on it constructively.”


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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