Health Insurance

Link to Obamacare? Staples cracks down on worker hours

Did you get the memo?: "Work too many hours at Staples, and you might get fired"—because of Obamacare.

A number of Staples store managers are now threatening to discipline part-time workers—"up to and including termination"—if they clock in for more than 25 hours on the job per week, a new report reveals.

Those draconian threats at the office-supply store giant coincide with the start in January of Obamacare regulations that require large employers to offer affordable health insurance coverage to employees who work 30 hours or more per week, or pay a fine of up to $3,000 per worker.

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While Staples denies the new threats that could send workers dusting off their resumes have any connection with the Affordable Care Act, employees who spoke with BuzzFeed News suggested there was a clear link.

"Before January, it was a smack on the wrist if anyone went over 25 hours—they got an email scolding them saying, 'You went over 25, try not to do that,' a Staples employee told BuzzFeed News, which first reported the threats of termination.

"But now it's become really serious...they've threatened to write up managers and every person that goes over 25 hours."

Staples store sign
Adam Jeffery | CNBC

BuzzfeedNews obtained a memo sent out to a number of workers entitled "Attention Staples Associates."

The memo said, "Recent changes have necessitated a strong stance on part time associates going beyond 25 hours worked per week. Due to these changes, no part time associates are scheduled beyond 25 hours. Unfortunately, despite not being being scheduled beyond 25 hours, several associates still clocked in for more than 25 hours."

The memo continued, "Going forward, exceeding 25 hours will result in documentation for the associate. The first discrepancy will result in a note to file; following issues will result in written documentation up to and including termination."

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BuzzFeed News reported that it had spoke to five current and former part-time Staples workers who confirmed the threats, and noted that online message boards populated with Staples workers had detailed "written warnings and threats of termination for working even 10 minutes above the 25-hours weekly limit."

Asked about the report, Staples spokesman Carrie McElwee said, "Staples' policy regarding part-time associates weekly hours pre-dates the Affordable Care Act by many years."

"Some managers may have reiterated the existing policy to our associates as part of our ongoing efforts to improve the efficiency and competitiveness of our stores. In fact, this policy has been in place for more than a decade," McElwee said.

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However, in a story published more than a year ago, in January 2014, BuzzFeed News reported that Staples the previous month had sent store managers a memo saying it "is implementing a policy regarding the number of hours a part-time associate can work per week in a retail location."

"Beginning with the week ending 1/4/2014 schedule, all part-time associates may not be scheduled for more than 25 hours per week," said that earlier memo.

Read the BuzzFeed News story here.