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National Restaurant Association - 30-hour workweek: Why restaurant stories mattered

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30-hour workweek: Why restaurant stories mattered

Stories of the health care law’s impact on restaurants were a visible part of the debate during the House of Representatives’ April 3 vote to pass the Save American Workers Act, which would change the health care law’s definition of “full-time” from 30 to the traditional 40 hours.

The ACA requires businesses to use the 30-hour standard in determining how many people they employ. Employers with 50 or more full-time-equivalent employees could face huge penalties if they fail to offer health plans to employees who average more than 30 hours a week during a month.

The National Restaurant Association supported the bill, which was introduced by Rep. Todd Young (R-Ind.) and passed the House by a vote of 248-179. Eighteen Democrats joined all voting Republicans in support of the legislation.

See how your lawmakers voted  and send a “thank you” tweet or letter to representatives who co-sponsored the Save American Workers Act!

Restaurateurs sent more than 5,000 letters to Congress on the issue, and met with hundreds of lawmakers about the challenges of using 30 hours a week as the new standard for full-time employment. The NRA and its members have been working for several years to highlight these and other business challenges under the ACA.

Bill sponsor Young said that the 30-hour standard is already limiting hours and pay for employees across many industries, including in restaurants. “The employees we’re talking about are the people who most depend on getting every hour and every bit of wages they can,” he said. “This needs to be fixed.”

Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) introduced a similar bill and later threw his support behind the Save American Workers Act. He said one of his restaurateur constituents was the first to talk to him about the challenges of using a 30-hour standard to define which employees are full time.

“I was first approached about the problem with the 30-hour definition by Steve Palmer, one of the owners of Palmer Place restaurant, an institution in La Grange, Illinois,” Lipinski said during the House’s April 3 debate.

“This is a family business committed to the community and to their employees. They offer health insurance coverage to their workers when possible. Because of the nature of their business, many of their employees are part-time and work flexible schedules. But the ACA’s definition of full-time worker has put the Palmer family’s one restaurant on the cusp of being classified as a large business. The family now finds itself facing hefty new expenses for health insurance, or a fine.”

Passing the bill is one important step forward in the NRA’s drive to change the health care law. The NRA and its members now turn their attention to the Senate. “We encourage the Senate to move this legislation forward,” Scott DeFife, the NRA executive vice president, policy and government affairs, said.

“Setting an artificially low, bright line as to who is considered full-time and who is considered part-time will force employers to limit the flexibility both employers and employees need,” DeFife said. “We look forward to continuing our work with Congress to address practical problems with implementation of the health care law for Main Street businesses.”

During the April 3 debate, Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind.) read from the NRA’s letter citing the potential challenges restaurant owners would face—including greatly reduced employee flexibility—under the health care law’s 30-hour definition of full-time. 

Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) cited a letter in support of the bill from the Employers for Flexibility in Health Care Coalition. The NRA co-leads the E-Flex Coalition, a group of leading trade associations and businesses in the retail, restaurant, supermarket, hospitality, construction, temporary staffing, and other service-related industries, as well as employer-sponsored plans insuring millions of American workers.

Multiple lawmakers also mentioned letters they’d received from state restaurant associations in support of Young’s bill.

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