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FGCU monitors employee hours to comply with health-care act

Florida Gulf Coast University is preparing itself for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and the stakes are high. If state employers such as FGCU fails to comply with the legislation, it would cost Florida taxpayers $320 million.

“As an employer, we must offer health insurance to anyone who works on average 30 hours or more per week,” said Christine Lloyd, assistant vice president and director of human resources at FGCU.

A single employee exceeding the hour restriction not offered health benefits would trigger a $1,500 fine to the state for every employee, even those with health insurance, according to Lloyd. Multiplied by the number of state employees, that fine is approximately $320 million.

“That is the fear we’re all operating from today,” Lloyd said in an information session to FGCU staff. The cost to FGCU to provide health insurance to a single employee is about $600 per month. The cost rises to $1,700 per month if the employee chooses to cover family, said Lloyd.

“This is why we are so sensitive of this 29-hour-per-week average restriction.” Under the new law, institutions such as FGCU will have to diligently track the number of hours worked by its employees in specified measurement periods. The challenge, according to Lloyd, is not with hourly employees, but with stipend and adjunct faculty. Adjunct faculty are typically part-time instructors.

“The state hasn’t issued formal guidelines regarding adjunct faculty,” Lloyd said. “I think this law will cause significant re-evaluation of how universities use adjunct faculty.” Lloyd also said stipend employees will become a major issue.

“We are not tracking hours worked by stipend employees,” Lloyd said. “When a stipend employee works a lot of hours, (his or her) hourly rate drops below minimum wage. This is a potential issue.”

Lloyd said FGCU Human Resources has been working tirelessly over the summer to make it easier to track hours worked by employees.

“We are not the only employer struggling with this,” Lloyd said. “There are a number of employees we do not know the quantity of hours they’ve worked.”

The new law also creates issues for employees working more than one job on campus or at multiple state universities.

Since all state institutions are treated as one entity under the law, an instructor working at FGCU and another institution more than 30 hours per week will trigger the mandate, according to Lloyd.

“We can’t prepare for adjunct faculty who work at other institutions,” Lloyd said. The legislation will take approximately 10 years to implement. “More things are coming down the pipe,” Lloyd said.

In a July email to all staff, FGCU Vice President and General Counsel Vee Leonard said student workers and some part-time, non-student workers may work no more than 29 hours per week, beginning in fall 2013.

“We have many facets in place to prevent issues from arising,” Lloyd said. Also known as “Obamacare,” the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has received a lot of public attention by legislators, political commentators and national media in recent weeks. Many critics blame the March 2010 law on the partial government shutdown that began Oct. 1.

“Health care is the single most important thing we can do for America’s long-term fiscal health,” President Barack Obama said at a 2009 American Medical Association conference. On the CBS show “Face The Nation,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Affordable Care Act is “the worse piece of legislation passed in the last half century.” Despite the public political divide, Lloyd said, “As a human being, I think everyone should have access to quality, affordable health care.”

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