Staples has shot back at President Obama over comments made to BuzzFeed News, where he criticized the company for its policy of limiting the number of hours worked by its part-time employees.
"I suspect that they could well afford to treat their workers favorably and give them some basic financial security," President Obama said in an interview Tuesday with BuzzFeed News. "And if they can't, then they should be willing to allow those workers to get the Affordable Care Act without cutting wages."
The comments were made in response to a BuzzFeed News report showing the company has begun strictly enforcing a rule limiting part-time workers to 25 hours of work per week. Some part-time employees said their hours have been cut severely in recent months, leading to hundreds of dollars of lost monthly wages. A memo posted at one Staples store said "recent changes have necessitated a strong stance" on the weekly hours policy, and employees could be subject to disciplinary action including firing if they exceeded the limit.
"It's unfortunate that the president is attacking a company that provides more than 85,000 jobs and is a major tax payer," Staples spokesperson Mark Cautela said in a statement. "We are very proud of our associates and offer competitive wages and benefits. Staples is a leader in helping associates build a secure future."
Calling the BuzzFeed News report on the company "misleading," Cautela said the company policy limiting part-time workers' hours has existed for more than a decade, predating the Affordable Care Act. "Unfortunately, the president appears not to have all the facts," he said.
Staples employees have told BuzzFeed News that enforcement of the policy on hours has become particularly strict this year, as an Affordable Care Act provision requiring employers to offer health insurance to staff working more than 30 hours per week kicked into effect.
In January 2014, BuzzFeed News reported that a December 2013 Staples memo to store managers said the company was "implementing a policy" regarding part-time worker hours, limiting them to 25 per week. The memo included a guide offering talking points for managers needing to explain the new rules to staff, describing it as a "new policy" that would be "effective at the beginning of the year."