Retail chain slashes employees' hours, cuts health care benefits

by: Deborah Horne Updated:


SEATTLE - Retail chain Forever 21 occupies a large space in downtown Seattle and in the hearts of its loyal customer. "They have good deals," said Michayla Tompson of Seattle. "They're fashionable. And I feel like with their pieces you can make it your own." "They're adorable," agreed Grace Blumenstein of Bellevue. "You can mix and match. Yeah, I really like the store."

But what they didn't know -- until we told them -- is that the chain is cutting some full-time employees to 29 1/2 hours and taking away their health care coverage. This -- just as the Affordable Care Act kicks in -- requiring all employers to provide health care for anyone working at least 30 hours. It's a trend that seems to be happening across the country.

"I don't think it's very fair," said Blumenstein. "They're just taking them away, midterm, It's not right." "I mean, new hires, that's your new policy," her mother Deanna said. "(But) people that are here? It doesn't seem fair that they would do that to them."

Not fair, but is it legal? We put that question to Seattle labor lawyer Mike Subit. "Unless they are doing it for an illegal reason or unless it violates somebody's contract, they can do it," Subit said. "Whether it's a good idea or a bad idea, it's not an illegal idea."

It is an idea that does not sit well with loyal customer Michayla Tompson. "For the customers, it's like yes, but no one really pays attention to the employees, which is very unfortunate," she said. "I know if I was in that position, I'd be having something to say about it."

The employees' hours will be cut beginning Sunday. They lose their health care benefits at the end of this month.