Obamacare, Part-Time Help and Massachusetts Employment Law

February 7, 2013

With President Barack Obama's re-election, the future of his health care initiative has been all but solidified, prompting a number of low-wage employers to shift toward part-time workers, rather than providing health insurance for full-time employees.pencil2.jpg

Already, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that a number of chain hotels, restaurants and retailers have started scaling back hourly workers to 30 hours weekly, which is the threshold at which employers with more than 50 workers would have to offer a minimum level of health insurance by 2014, or begin paying a $2,000-per-worker penalty.

Our Massachusetts employment lawyers want both businesses and workers to know what the rights are of part-time workers as outlined under state law, which tends to be more stringent than federal law with regard to employee protections.

Consultants have warned some businesses that moving to more part-time labor may risk a loss of productivity, higher staff turnover and low morale.

Still, some are making the move anyway.

Although businesses here already fall under the health care overhaul signed into law in 2006 by then-Gov. Mitt Romney, we may begin to see the effects amplified once the Affordable Care Act goes into full effect next year.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that roughly 18 percent of the country's workforce is part-time, while approximately 70 percent of the nation's companies offer some form of part-time work.

Aside from the health care overhauls, other factors that are contributing to an increasing number of part-time employment include:

  • An increasing number of people who are making a gradual transition into retirement;
  • More women with children who are working;
  • An increased level of entry requirements for skilled jobs, meaning people are attending school and/or training for longer.

Regardless of whether an employee is full time or part-time, the minimum wage is $8.00 hourly in Massachusetts. For tipped employees, it's $2.63 an hour.

Additionally, part-time employees are given the same kinds of considerations full-time workers would get with regard to holidays. So for example, if a paid holiday falls on a day that the part-time employee is scheduled to work, he or she should receive a day off with pay, as would a full-time worker. Similarly, if the part-time employee works that holiday, he or she should receive a pro-rated, holiday pay. (You can learn more about Massachusetts Blue Laws here.)

Part-time employees are also entitled to the same breaks as full-time workers, which is a full 30 minutes for every six hours worked.

It's worth noting that employers don't have to provide paid sick or vacation time to either full or part-time workers under state law, though an illness may fall under the federal Family Medical Leave Act.

If you have a question complying with state or federal labor laws -- or state of federal employee healthcare mandates -- contact an experienced Boston business law firm today.

The Brown Law Firm, LLC, has offices in Belmont and Boston. For a free and confidential consultation, call 617-489-0817 or contact us online.

Additional Resources:
Health-Care Law Spurs a Shift to Part-Time Workers, Nov. 4, 2012, By Julie Jargon, Louise Radnofsky and Alexandra Berzon, The Wall Street Journal

More Blog Entries:
Businesses Fighting Government Claims Need Legal Team With Experience, Nov. 15, 2012, Boston Employment Lawyer Blog