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Restaurant company tests limiting worker hours as Obamacare deadlines approach

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By Doug Powers  •  October 9, 2012 11:16 AM

**Written by Doug Powers

The latest in the growing line of “workers hardest hit” stories as Obamacare is implemented:

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.

Darden said the test is taking place in “a select number” of restaurants in four markets, including Central Florida, but would not give details. The company said there has been no decision made about expanding it.

In an emailed statement, Darden said 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.”

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.

Darden was among the many to receive an Obamacare waiver (after teaming up with FLOTUS and “Let’s Move”), but those waivers will obviously only go so far.

The Obamacare law defines “full time” as 30 hours per week. Darden said the goal in their “test” is to keep employees from exceeding 28 hours per week. What a surprise — who would have seen that coming?

**Written by Doug Powers

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