Bills Addressing Definition of a Full-Time Worker Advance in House

By Ilyse Wolens Schuman

This week, the House Ways and Means Committee approved two bills that address the definition of “full-time employee” under the Affordable Care Act.

Under the health care law’s employer responsibility requirements – commonly known as the “pay-or-play” provisions – an employer with 50 or more full-time or full-time equivalent employees will be required to provide health insurance that meets certain ACA standards to their full-time employees starting in 2015, or pay a penalty.

The Affordable Care Act considers a worker “full time” if he or she works 30 hours or more per week, as opposed to the customary 40 hours used in other employment statutes and regulations.

Various bills moving through Congress

Members of both the business and labor communities have criticized this definition, claiming that it will lead many businesses to reduce part-time hours to below 30 and/or prevent part-time employees from taking additional shifts to keep employees from becoming “full time” under the ACA.

The first bill the House Committee addressed, the Save American Workers Act (H.R. 2575), would specifically define “full-time employee” as an employee, “with respect to any month . . . who is employed on average at least 40 hours of service per week.’’

A companion bill, the Forty Hours is Full Time Act of 2013, was introduced in the Senate last year, but has not yet advanced in that chamber. The Committee action came the same day that the Congressional Budget Office released its report on the impact of the ACA on the labor market.

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The second bill, the Protecting Volunteer Firefights and Emergency Responders Act (H.R. 3970), would exempt volunteer emergency services workers from the ACA’s definition.

Both measures are ready for a full House vote, and are expected to pass if brought to the floor. Their fate in the U.S. Senate is less certain.

More information on the committee markup session can be found here.

This was originally published on Littler Mendelson’s Employment Benefits Counsel blog© 2014 Littler Mendelson. All Rights Reserved. Littler®, Employment & Labor Law Solutions Worldwide® and ASAP® are registered trademarks of Littler Mendelson, P.C.

Ilyse W. Schuman is a shareholder in the Washington, D.C. office of Littler Mendelson. She provides strategic counsel and representation to clients on a broad array of workplace issues and developments in Congress and executive branch federal agencies.

She is a member of the firm's Government Affairs practice and works with employers in multiple industries, including trade associations. She also leads the firm's Legislative and Regulatory practice.

A former top congressional staffer and policy advisor, Ilyse worked on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions from 2001 to 2008, serving as minority staff director and chief counsel. She began her work in the Senate as chief labor counsel for Senator Mike Enzi on the Subcommittee on Employment, Safety and Training, where she led legislative and oversight activities.

After leaving the Senate, Schuman joined a leading trade association of electro-industry manufacturers as vice president, where she served as managing director of the Medical Imaging and Technology Alliance, the collective voice of medical imaging equipment manufacturers. Additionally, she served as in-house counsel at a manufacturer and market and technology leader, where she advised the company on human resource matters. In law school, she was a member of the Journal of Law and Policy in International Business.


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