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After Backlash, Olive Garden and Red Lobster Won't Cut Full-Time Employees

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Photo: Hattiesburgmemory/Flickr

Looks like Olive Garden and Red Lobster won't be cutting back employees to part-time to save money in healthcare costs after all. Parent company Darden Restaurants, Inc. announced in October that it was planning to hire more part-time workers in four test markets, a move that would protect the company from having to provide basic health coverage to full-time employees when healthcare reform — aka the dreaded Obamacare — takes effect. This decision inevitably led to the same kind of public backlash other chains have received for their anti-Obamacare statements. According to the AP, "both employee and customer satisfaction declined at restaurants where the tests were in place" — and now Darden rushes in with an update.

As a rep stresses that the move to part-time employees was only a test, a press release declares that, "None of Darden's current full-time employees, hourly or salaried, will have their full-time status changed as a result of healthcare reform." It goes on to explain that new and existing restaurants will continue to have full-time employees "because that is what it takes to fully deliver the experiences guests expect" — and that these employees "will have access to the same insurance plan coverage." Phew, now Olive Garden servers will be able to keep those endless breadsticks coming in their characteristic timely-ish fashion. Here's the press release:

Darden Provides Update on its Restaurant Staffing Plans Under Healthcare Reform; Company Announces Commitments to its Current Full-Time, Hourly Employees

ORLANDO, Dec. 6, 2012 -- Darden Restaurants, Inc. today provided an update on its full-time staffing plans for 2014 following thorough testing of potential changes in the composition of its workforce in connection with healthcare reform. The company has determined that: None of Darden's current full-time employees, hourly or salaried, will have their full-time status changed as a result of healthcare reform.

Each of Darden's new and existing restaurants will have full-time hourly employees because that is what it takes to fully deliver the experiences guests expect.

In 2014, all of Darden's full-time employees, including hourly, salaried and executive employees, will have access to the same insurance plan coverage.

Darden's current full-time population includes approximately 45,000 employees.

Darden Chairman and CEO Clarence Otis commented: "Although our workforce historically has been heavily part-time, we have always had a significant number of full-time employees and they are integral to our success. The data we have collected during our test around guest satisfaction and employee engagement has only reinforced this. As we think about healthcare reform, while many of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act's rules and regulations have yet to be finalized, we are pleased we know enough at this point to make firm and hopefully reassuring commitments to our full-time employees."

· Olive Garden owner to hold off on worker changes [AP]
· All Olive Garden Coverage on Eater [-E-]

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