My employer increased my hours but is not giving me benefits
May 16, 2014 8:00 AM   Subscribe

I've been working as a part time employee for awhile but recently my hours have been increased for some special projects. I've been working 30-40 hour weeks. I do not get health insurance or any other benefits because I am not considered a full time employee. Are they required to give me benefits at some point? How should I approach this with them? I'm in the US.

I've been told that I'll be working between 30-40 hours through July. This is fine with me because I need the money. I would very much like to be a full time employee so that I can have benefits (I've never had a paid vacation), but I'm worried if I ask they'll just cut my hours back down again or look for an excuse to fire me (I'm in an at-will state).

I think their reasons are purely financial, I've been complimented on my work and everyone seems to value me. The pay is pretty decent but they are very stingy with raises. I've been looking for a real full time job for awhile now but if I could be a real employee here then I would probably stay.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If they are offering benefits to anyone to a class of employees (for example all employees who work at least 30 hours a week are provided benefits), they have to offer that benefit to every employee in that class or it is considered discrimination.

I suspect you're right that they would probably just cut your hours to keep you under whatever the defined number of hours is (and, if it is a group policy there IS a number of hours for eligibility in their contract with the insurance provider).

Could you sue them? Probably, but in the long term it may not be worth it.

I would take the extra hours while you can and look for a job with a more ethical employer.
posted by HuronBob at 8:14 AM on May 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Contact the US Department of Labor. Fried of mine works there, they deal with this kind of thing all the time. You can remain anonymous, and probably get better advice than from Metafilter.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 8:15 AM on May 16, 2014 [10 favorites]

I recommend you carefully read through the employee handbook from their HR department. How they define full-time and part-time is really important. For an explanation and sample excerpt, see here.
posted by Houstonian at 8:18 AM on May 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

I know in my state, it has more to do with how much you work on average over a 12 month period than by the week that can change your classification for retirement. In addition, number of employees and what they offer them also matters. Health insurance is different To get a accurate answer taking jeff-o-matics advice is a good idea.
posted by domino at 8:23 AM on May 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

In the USA, there is no requirement that any business offer health insurance to any employee. In the future, some businesses may pay a penalty if they don't offer health insurance to certain employees, but that penalty has been delayed into the future.

In general, if an employer offers health benefits to certain employees (for instance, employees working >30 hours is a common metric), they are required to offer health benefits to all employees that qualify. However, employers can make those requirements particularly strict in order to exclude certain classes of employees.

That said, it does not really matter what your employer legal requirements are. If you want health insurance, you will have to either:
  1. Sue your employer to get them.
  2. Complain to the Department of Labor and hope they do something about it.
  3. Find another job.
Those are really your only three options - employment law is not self-enforcing. In other words, it doesn't matter if your employer is violating the law - it matters what you are willing to do about it.

As a practical matter, option 1 will make you unemployable in the future and option 2 is almost hopelessly unlikely to happen. So, consider option 3.
posted by saeculorum at 8:27 AM on May 16, 2014 [4 favorites]

[This is a followup from the asker.]
My employee handbook has these definitions:

Full-Time: An employee who is regularly scheduled to work 30 or more hours per week on a continuous basis. The Company standard for full-time employees is 40 hours a week.

Part-Time: An employee who is regularly scheduled to work less than 30 hours per week.
posted by cortex at 8:42 AM on May 16, 2014

That said, it does not really matter what your employer legal requirements are. If you want health insurance, you will have to either:
Sue your employer to get them.
Complain to the Department of Labor and hope they do something about it.
Find another job.
Those are really your only three options

I'm pretty sure there's another option that involves asking "Hey, am I a full time employee, and does that land me any benefits now or what?" - it doesn't appear that this option has been exercised yet. Best case, yes, benefits happen. Worst case, they don't and your three options come into play depending on the response.
posted by LionIndex at 9:14 AM on May 16, 2014 [7 favorites]

on a continuous basis

"on a continuous basis" != "[only] through July."

"on a continuous basis" probably == "for an indefinite period" or "for the foreseeable future".

Your handbook does not define you as a full-time employee.
posted by tckma at 10:36 AM on May 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'm worried if I ask they'll just cut my hours back down again or look for an excuse to fire me (I'm in an at-will state).

Think about whether this is really likely. First a word about at-will -- did you know that employers can institute at-will policies in 49 of our 50 states? Now, how do you think people move from part-time to full-time in the majority of the US?

You know your employer better than we do of course, but as a general rule employers are happy to hear that a person wants to stay with them, be more invested in their company, wants to grow their career with them, and so on. Couch your request in those terms, not in terms of benefits. You want a full-time position with them, you want to learn more about the company/business, you want to show that you can make a bigger contribution to their team, etc.

You can talk to your manager, or if there is any hiring-level person who might serve as a bit of a mentor to you (someone who takes you under their wing) then you could talk to them, too. There's nothing wrong with asking for a job (that's how you got your current part-time job, after all) and there's nothing wrong with wanting growth within a company.

Think of it this way. If you ask for a full-time job and they say no... why would they cut your hours? They still need someone to work the job. You do a good job. There's no benefit for them to cut your hours. There's no benefit for them to fire you, either. Just make sure that you aren't issuing an ultimatum of give-be-this-or-else, because then, yes, they might get rid of you seeing as you have one foot out the door anyway. But I don't see anywhere in your question that you are thinking about doing that, so I think you'll be fine.
posted by Houstonian at 10:46 AM on May 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

Also think of this: There are entire industries where "permalance" -- full-time on a contract basis with no benefits -- is the norm or quickly becoming so. They get away with this because they can.
posted by dekathelon at 10:49 AM on May 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

As hinted above, Labor law varies substantially from state to state-- there's no US standard for what you're asking. Check the website of your state's department of labor which covers what the state considers the requirements for full-time status.

This is in addition to your company's requirements that I see above; the company has to meet, but can also exceed the requirements. (That's badly worded-- the company can make more people full-time than the state requirements, but not fewer.) The company may also be using this "through July" business to end-run a state requirement.

Try to get a specific reason from HR that you're not FT, and compare that to your State DOL's standards. If you're not finding a happy match, complain first at work, then at the DOL.

If you're convinced you're being screwed, though, look for another job.
posted by Sunburnt at 11:03 AM on May 16, 2014

While you're investigating the legal requirements your employer may or may not be meeting, why not schedule a meeting to talk about your future in general.

This should be a largely positive meeting where you tell your manager and/or HR person that you enjoy the work you're doing, excited to be getting more hours and are definitely interested in becoming a full-time employee. Then ask them some questions like...

What are the future plans for this department/project/type of work?
What would it take for me to be taken on full-time?
What is your hiring calendar looking like?
Are their specific skills I should be looking to acquire?

Then reiterate how much you like the work you're doing and want to stay on and are committed to seeing any current projects through successful completion, but that finding full-time work with benefits and opportunities for career growth and professional development are important priorities for you.

In letting them know directly and respectfully that you're interested, but that you're actively looking for more you might light a fire under them to make a decision.

In the meantime check-out The next enrollment period doesn't start until fall, but perhaps you've had a major qualifying event.
posted by brookeb at 3:33 PM on May 16, 2014

"on a continuous basis" probably == "for an indefinite period"

FYI, I know someone who was held on in this capacity for over three years, hoping the company would open up and hire her full time. Never happened. She quit, the next gal has been their give-or-take a year. You're being screwed, and companies use these weasel words to do it to you.

Go to them and ask nicely to be put on full time. If they tell you sometime in the future, see if you can pin them down to a month. You'll know by their response if it's at all likely.

Best deal? Go look for a real full-time job.
posted by BlueHorse at 9:00 PM on May 17, 2014

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