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Darden To Maintain Full-Time Workers’ Status

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NEW YORK — Darden Restaurants Inc. is expected to announce today that none of its current full-time employees will have their status changed as a result of new health-care regulations.

The move will come just two days after the company lowered its profit outlook for the year, citing failed promotions and negative publicity from its tests that used more part-time employees. The tests were aimed at keeping down costs tied to new health-care regulations, which will require large companies to provide insurance to full-time workers starting in 2014.

After Darden’s tests were reported in October, the company received a flood of feedback from customers through its website, on Facebook and in restaurants, said Bob McAdam, who heads government affairs and community relations for Darden. Additionally, he said that internal surveys showed both employee and customer satisfaction declined at restaurants where the tests were in place.

McAdam declined to give specifics on the internal surveys but said the decline was “enough to make a decision.”

Darden says it still needs to see how costs and other factors play out to determine what its workforce will look like in following years.

For now, about 75 percent of the company’s 185,000 employees are part-timers. The exact mix in the future “will depend on how the business goes,” McAdam said.

Darden is far from alone in considering changes to its workforce as a result. CKE Restaurants, which owns Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s fast-food chains, has said it plans to employ more part-time workers. McDonald’s Corp., the world’s biggest hamburger chain, has also noted that it was reviewing factors that impact its health-care costs, including its number of full-time employees.
— This article appeared on page B1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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