By Tiffany Hsu
9:15 AM PST, December 6, 2012
Darden Restaurants Inc., the parent of eateries such as Olive Garden and Red Lobster, said it will not bump any of its full-time employees down to part-time status to save on healthcare costs once President Obama’s reforms go into effect.
Come 2014, when the healthcare law is set to go into effect, Darden said its 45,000 full-time workers will keep their status. All full-timers, whether hourly or salaried, will have access to the same insurance coverage, the company said.
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The Orlando, Fla., business has 185,000 employees in total, three quarters of them part-time.
But all of Darden’s more than 2,000 restaurants will have full-time hourly employees on staff because “that is what it takes to fully deliver the experience guests expect,” the company said in a statement.
The promises, according to the statement, were meant as “firm and hopefully reassuring commitments” to the company’s full-time employees.
Darden had tried to measure the potential costs of healthcare reform by hiring more part-time workers in a controversial four-market test earlier this year.
Provisions of the healthcare overhaul would force Darden and other large companies to offer basic health insurance to full-time workers or face fines. The restaurant industry, which generally operates on slim margins, has complained that the requirement could be devastating.
But data collected during the tests showed that full-time workers were “integral” to success and guest satisfaction and employee engagement, according to a statement from Darden Chief Executive Clarence Otis.
The company this week lowered its profit and revenue projections for the quarter ended Nov. 25. The cost-cutting tests — along with the resulting “negative media coverage” — were partly responsible for the sour outlook, according to Darden.
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