Recently, Juicy Couture had a problem. Under the terms of the Affordable Care Act, any company with more than 50 employees who work 30+ hours per week has to provide those workers with health insurance that covers basic healthcare. Juicy Couture did not want to do this, because paying for health insurance is really expensive. But then Juicy Couture came up with a solution: there was no way to trim its thousands-strong workforce down to less than 50. But maybe instead it could just cut all of its retail employees' hours down to part-time, and hire more people for fewer hours? And then nobody would have any health care, yayyyyy.
Two former employees of the chain's New York City flagship store say Juicy Couture has a shady new policy of replacing full-time workers with part-timers — because only full-timers are eligible for paid sick leave, and because it wants to skirt its obligations under the A.C.A. The two workers, Darrell and Duane, say they were hired as full-timers and had their hours cut without explanation. Darrell had worked as a full-time employee at the store for two and a half years. Duane says that when he asked about why his hours were cut from 40 per week to 14, the store manager told him it was because he had a 5-year-old daughter and couldn't guarantee his complete availability.
The workers, with the support of the Retail Action Project, an advocacy group for retail workers in New York, have started a petition calling on Juicy Couture and its parent company, Fifth and Pacific, to reverse its policy:
When we began working at Juicy Couture, many of us were full-time. Now, only 19 of the store's 128 employees are full-time! Not only are they firing full-time workers and replacing us with a part-time workforce, just this month Juicy capped all part-time workers hours at 21 hours per week. We quickly realized that Juicy Couture is doing everything they can to not take care of its workers.
See, it was hard enough for us to make ends meet in New York City as full-time retail workers. But by keeping hours under 30 per week, Juicy Couture will no longer be required to offer their workers affordable health care — part of the Affordable Health Care Act's plan to make sure more working Americans have basic health care. Further, we were told we're only eligible for paid time off in case we're sick or have other responsibilities if we work 1400 hours in one year. We did the math, and realized part-time workers reach that at 21 hours per week. This means that the vast majority of Juicy Couture's workers will not ever get one single paid sick day.
Just a random piece of context, because why not: Fifth and Pacific made a profit of $57 million during the last quarter.
UPDATE: By the way? The U.S. government already totally thought about that potential dodge, Juicy Couture. Both part-time and full-time employees count towards the number of workers a business must have before the employer becomes responsible for providing the workers' health insurance — a business with either 50 full-time employees or 100 part-time employees, or some equivalent combination of the above, is a business that has to provide an insurance plan. But even in that instance, employers are required to offer that insurance only to full-time workers. Perhaps by cutting everyone's hours down to part-time, Juicy Couture is hoping to avoid having any eligible full-time employees.
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UPDATE 2: Juicy Couture's P.R. emailed us to say the following:
We wish you'd come to us first so that we could have set the facts straight. Juicy Couture has not cut full-time hours or benefits, and we are meeting and fully intend to meet both the letter and the spirit of the Affordable Health Care Act.
When asked about the specific claims made by the two workers who started the petition, the rep said:
While we do not comment specifically on current or former employees, we can tell you that contrary to claims, the Juicy Couture store at 5th Avenue has increased the number of full time employees in the store since these employees worked there.
You can sign the petition here.
Tell Juicy Take Care of Your Workers! [Retail Action Project]