Acting on a recommendation from the Virginia Department of Human Resource Management (DHRM), Gov. Bob McDonnell submitted legislation proposing that all state agencies, including colleges and universities, limit wage employees’ hours to no more than 29 hours per week in accordance with the wage employment under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
McDonnell submitted the legislation in his proposed amendments to the 2010-2012 Virginia budget, according to the Virginia state legislature website, but the legislature has yet to vote on the legislation.
According to the ACA, a staff member who works 30 or more hours per week on average is considered a full-time employee, which makes them eligible for the new health benefits plan for state employers. The guidance for state agencies to lower hourly wage employee hours is a result of the proposed legislation.
“If most people work over 30 hours per week, [UMW] shouldn’t cut the hours just to avoid having to pay for their healthcare,” said freshman business major Janai Mitchell.
Since the University of Mary Washington is a state employer, UMW will limit wage employee hours to 29 hours per week, effective on the pay period beginning Feb. 11, 2013, according to an email from Sabrina Johnson, associate vice president for human resources, to supervisors of wage employees at UMW.
However, UMW is doing this despite the fact that the legislature has not yet passed the proposed legistlation.
Former student, Steven Apruzese, 21, works about 34 hours per week as a Sodexo employee at Joe’s Stacks and WOW in the Woodard Campus Center.
“If they reduced everyone’s hours below 29, it would be pretty sleazy, especially for the people who have been here a long time,” said Apruzese.
Another Sodexo employee and UMW alumnus, Michael Campbell, 28, agrees that the hour cuts would be an issue.
“I think it’s frustrating because I left another job because they were doing the same things,” said Campbell. “It makes the job market even harder.”
Campbell works 27-40 hours per week and left another job to take up more hours at UMW this year.
“We regret the mandated reduction in hours but must comply under the risk of liability for violation of state law,” wrote Johnson in the email.
According to Rick Pearce, vice president for administration and finance, the state of Virginia pays about 80 percent of the healthcare premium, which ranges from $6,000 for an individual to over $14,000 for a family per year.
“State officials have determined that the overall cost is potentially very significant and the act’s details regarding coverage limits and eligibility are very vague at this point,” said Pearce in an email.
Despite the difficulties it will cause him, Apruzese understands UMW’s decision to limit the hours. He believes that UMW could not pay for every employee’s healthcare were the bill to pass.
“It’s better to stay the way it is and keep [healthcare] optional,” said Apruzese.
According to Pearce, the budget and human resources staffs have been working with supervisors and managers to avoid reducing overall working hours.
“There are a number of ways to maintain the necessary work hours while meeting the directive from the State,” said Pearce in an email. “As always, there are some situations that will present challenges, but as a University, we are fully committed to doing all that is possible to protect and support our valued and vital workforce.”
According to Pearce, the UMW office of human resources requested clarification regarding wage staff that work different hours each week based on their academic schedules and departmental needs.