During February and March, workers at Juicy Couture’s flagship store suddenly found their hours dramatically cut, sometimes in half. As employees began to ask management why they were being assigned so few hours and request more, they found that the store had instituted a new policy capping hourly-paid workers’ weekly hours at 21 per week.
Under guidelines set in the Affordable Care Act, if a company has more than 50 employees who each work over 30 hours per week, that company is required to provide workers with at least basic health care. To get around this guideline, companies like Juicy simply replace each full-time position with two part-time positions, effectively protecting themselves from having to provide employees health care, sick leave, or vacation time.
This “part-timeification” trend may be spiking in response to the AFA but it’s nothing new. I worked for three summers as a cashier at a medium-sized chain grocery store, and during my time there, my wages and weekly hours were inversely proportional: as my hourly wages increased due to seniority, my weekly hours dropped. Meanwhile, I spoke to coworkers who were being scheduled for 35-39 hours per week — just under the threshold for full-time which would have guaranteed them health care, financial support for college, sick days, and other benefits.
But under the AFA 39 hours a week isn’t a low enough number for management to weasel out of health care costs. And for an hourly-paid worker, the shift from upwards of 40 hours per week to just 21 with no warning could have a devastating effect on one’s ability to meet one’s basic needs for survival. Pair that with the last-minute scheduling commonplace among retailers which makes it much more difficult to find and hold down a second job, and you’ve got some rightfully disgruntled workers.
To read more about Juicy Couture’s workers’ campaign with the Retail Action Project, and sign the petition supporting their fight for just hours, click here.