A recent New York Times article (July 20, 2014) entitled “Part-Time Schedules, Full-Time Headaches” written by Steven Greenhouse chronicles the difficulties that part-time employees are having with scheduling abuses. 

The article describes instances of several employees who had been scheduled for work and reported to work accordingly, only to be told to go home because there was not enough work or there were already enough employees to do the job. One nurse who reported to work as scheduled on Christmas Day was told by hospital administration to go home because the hospital’s census was low. However, this same nurse was also told to remain on call for the next four hours which she was expected to do without any form of compensation. Another young woman who was working at Wal-Mart had asked to have a more consistent schedule so that she could attend college classes. Instead of granting her request, Wal-Mart cut her hours, thereby forcing her to take a second job at McDonald’s. A former New York teacher who was laid off due to budget constraints, had applied for a part-time position at a retail chain. Even though he was told he would be working less than 29 hours per week, he would be expected to be “on call” the other hours. So even when he asked for a more consistent schedule so that he could seek other part-time employment, he was informed that if he was not willing to be available at other times, he would not be hired. Several other examples of this type of abuse are cited in the article and the bottom line is that employees have no rights in these situations and are forced to “put up and shut up.” Therefore, by signing on to become a part-time employee for many corporations, you were basically signing your rights away to try to piece together a couple of part-time jobs to make ends meet. 

It was common knowledge within the corporate world that the launching of the Affordable Healthcare Act would result in more companies downsizing their workforce by reducing hours from full-time to part-time in order to avoid paying healthcare costs, thereby increasing profits by reducing the overhead of paying healthcare benefits (the Holy Grail of having a full-time job). It was assumed that these part-time employees could then seek healthcare on their own through “Obamacare,” although there were still a few companies (like Apple), who provide their part-time employees with medical, dental and vision benefits according to Mr. Greenhouse. What many part-time employees were unaware of, was that by choosing low healthcare premium options they were ending up with high deductibles and very limited services. Basically, they were purchasing catastrophic insurance that would only reimburse hospitals and doctors for the most extreme and costly services. Not exactly the type of universal healthcare programs offered in Germany, Norway, Sweden or even in the United Kingdom.

To be fair, there are instances where part-time employment will be limited due to fluctuations in seasonal patterns. Such would be the case with many retail chains that will increase hours and bring on more part-time employees during the holiday season, only to curtail hours or lay these part-timers off right after New Year’s. However, Greenhouse’s article points to abuses of part-time employees who are expected to be on-call often around the clock, seven days a week without compensation. With unemployment still hovering at record highs, it’s very much a “buyer’s market,” whereby the employer holds all the cards, so potential part-time employees really need to be aware what they’re getting themselves into. 

Dr. Cavaiola is the Co-author of Toxic Coworkers: How to Deal With Dysfunctional People on the Job

About the Authors

Neil Lavender, Ph.D.

Neil J. Lavender, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist and a professor of psychology at Ocean County College in Toms River, New Jersey.

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