Traders Joe’s announced in a confidential memo last month that employees working less than 30 hours per week will have to get their health insurance via the Affordable Care Act exchanges in 2014.
Trader Joe’s CEO Dan Bane said in the memo that the company will issue part-time employees a $500 check in January to hold them over until they can enroll in President Barack Obama’s new health care law.
The announcement is notable considering the grocery chain has long provided health care coverage to its part-time employees. True, many larger retailers do the same, but Trader Joe’s is famous for having some of the lowest rates available for part-time workers.
However, the company has apparently decided it’d be cheaper to dump its part-time staff into the Obamacare exchanges next year where they will be eligible for tax subsidies to buy health insurance.
“Depending on income you may earn outside of Trader Joe’s … we believe that with the $500 from Trader Joe’s and the tax credits available under the ACA, many of you should be able to obtain health care coverage at very little if any net cost to you,” the Bane memo reads.
When questioned by the Huffington Post, a spokeswoman for Trader Joe’s would neither confirm nor deny the existence of the Bane memo.
“We have made some changes to our healthcare coverage that we believe will be a benefit to all Crew Members working in our stores. We are committed to providing all our Crew Members with benefits that are among the best in our industry,” she said.
A part-time employee who spoke to the HuffPo on condition of anonymity said she was unhappy with the move, citing the company’s health perks as “one of the best parts about the job.”
“There are several folks I work with who are there for the insurance as much as anything, mostly folks with young families,” she said. “I can say that when I opened and read the letter yesterday my reaction was pure panic, followed quickly by anger.”
Now whether company employees fall into the full-time or part-time category depends on their schedules, the Bane memo notes.
“It is important to note … we do not create our weekly schedules with healthcare eligibility in mind,” the memo reads. “Rather, we will continue to create weekly schedules that are solely focused on supporting the customer experience.”
The company will continue to provide employees who work 30 hours or more per week with health care coverage (Obamacare mandates that any company with 50 or more employees must provide health care coverage to its full-time staff).
But, again, being a full-time employee all depends on scheduling.
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