Before the Affordable Care Act was introduced, workers understood that “full-time” meant a full 40-hour workweek, and any employee who worked less than that was considered “part-time.” However, with the introduction of the Affordable Care Act came along the new “full-time” employee—or one who works at least 30 hours a week or at least 130 hours a month. This standard has created a lot of confusion, so we are here to set the record straight: “full-time” is still considered 40 hours.

Employer Discretion

Unfortunately for California employees, whether or not they are considered “part-time” and ineligible for benefits or “full-time” and privy to benefits is solely left to the employer’s discretion, except for employees who work 40 hours a week or more. If an employee chooses to classify an employee who works 39 hours a week as “part-time,” he or she can legally do so.

That said, the ACA does require larger employees—meaning those with 50 or more full-time employees—to either offer healthcare benefits to those workers working at least 30 hours a week, or at least 130 hours a month, or pay a tax penalty. Most opt to pay for the benefits, mostly because it is the right thing to do. Smaller employers, however, are not subject to the same rules.

Who Gets Benefits?

For smaller employers, who gets benefits is left solely up to the employer’s discretion. Employers are not required to offer benefits even to classified full-time employees. Benefits may include dental, medical, disability, life insurance, and the like. However, if benefits are offered to full-time employees, employers must use the same standards for each employee when determining who shall and who shall not receive benefits. For instance, an employer cannot classify administrative employees who work 36 hours a week as “full-time employees” but classify warehouse employees who put in the same amount of time as “part-time” for the sole purpose of withholding benefits. If 36 hours equates to full-time and full-time means benefits, all workers who put in 36 hours or more are entitled to the full package.

If a small employer refuses to offer benefits to a classified full-time employee for any reason, even though another employee works the same amount of hours, it could result in a discrimination suit for him or her. For this reason, most employers strive for uniformity in their hours and classifications, and most are very clear about when and to whom benefits are offered during the hiring process.

Refer to California’s Labor Code for more information on what and what does not constitute a full-time employee.

Contact a Los Angeles Employment Rights Attorney

Despite having some of the strictest anti-discrimination laws, California’s workplace rights laws are pretty lax. For this reason, there is a lot of room for interpretation, or, rather, a lot of what is considered “right” and “wrong” in the workplace is all dependent upon employers’ standard ways of doing things. For instance, what might be considered discrimination in one workplace might be company policy in the next.

That said just because the state has made it difficult to identify and stop acts of employment discrimination does not mean it is impossible or that you are without rights. If you believe that you are being treated unfairly by your California employer, call the Los Angeles employment rights attorneys at Workplace Rights Law Group to discuss your case.

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