TAMPA — Busch Gardens Tampa and the 10 other SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment attractions across the country will reduce weekly hours for part-time employees from 32 to 28, meaning the company won’t have to provide health insurance for those workers.
The changes appear to be a response to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, popularly known as “Obamacare,” which will require businesses with more than 49 employees to provide health insurance for workers who put in 30 or more hours a week. The reduction in hours will allow the company to slide under that threshold.
The decision reportedly will take effect in November.
Seaworld Parks & Entertainment did not reference the Affordable Care Act in a statement emailed from its Orlando headquarters Tuesday.
“The company will be adding full-time hourly positions across its 11 parks in 2014,” the email said. “Those positions will include health care benefits. The previous cap on hours for a team member considered part-time was 32. The move is intended to bring consistency to the part-time designation across the SeaWorld Parks system.”
However, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, in a letter Tuesday to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, said, “SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. ... became the latest employer this week to announce that it will cut the hours of its part-time employees to avoid the potentially devastating costs of ObamaCare.”
The Florida Republican asked Sebelius to use her trip to Orlando on Friday to meet with workers at local businesses like SeaWorld that face changes in providing health care to employees or face paying a penalty.
“Potentially thousands of Florida families will be taking home less income due to their hours being capped at 28 per-week rather than the 32 hours-per-week allowed before ObamacCare,” Rubio wrote.
“Especially for families living paycheck-to-paycheck, cutting their hours and income is exactly how ObamaCare devastates middle class Americans.”
SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. owns 11 theme parks across the country that employ nearly 22,000 workers. Of these, 18,000 are part-time or seasonal employees, including 4,000 in Central Florida.
A spokesman at Busch Gardens Tampa said company policy precludes providing information on the numbers of local employees.
SeaWorld shares, which went on sale in April in an Initial Public Offering, closed up 52 cents Tuesday at $29.78.