Small business owners' fear of the effect of the new health-care reform law on their bottom line is prompting many to hold off on hiring and even to shed jobs in some cases, a recent poll found.
"We were startled because we know that employers were concerned about the Affordable Care Act and the effects it would have on their business, but we didn't realize the extent they were concerned, or that the businesses were being proactive to make sure the effects of the ACA actually were minimized," said attorney Steven Friedman of Littler Mendelson. His firm, which specializes in employment law, commissioned the Gallup poll.
"If the small businesses' fears are reasonable, then it could mean that the small business sector grows slower than what economic conditions otherwise would indicate. And small businesses have been a growth engine in the economy," Friedman told CNBC.
Forty-one percent of the businesses surveyed have frozen hiring because of the health-care law known as Obamacare. And almost one-fifth—19 percent— answered "yes" when asked if they had "reduced the number of employees you have in your business as a specific result of the Affordable Care Act."
The poll was taken by 603 owners whose businesses have under $20 million in annual sales.
Another 38 percent of the small business owners said they "have pulled back on their plans to grow their business" because of Obamacare.
Those are "some pretty startling answers," Friedman said.
"To think that [nearly] 20 percent of small businesses have already reduced the numbers they have in their business because they're concerned about the medical coverage is significant, and a bit troubling," Friedman said.
(Read More: Two-Thirds May Not Insure Under Obamacare: Survey )