Part-time Employment Discrimination

Citizen Wealth Financial Justice

Little Rock       We represent lots of part-time workers and sometimes even fulltime work schedules feel part-timey with a 35-hour regular workweek or less.  Where 30 years ago, there was a straightforward definition of part-time as 20-hours or less, over the last decade we have to constantly fight employers to prevent defining the workweek at less than 30 hours or fewer than 32 hours or in some cases even an hour less than the 35 hour healthcare workweek or the 40 hours elsewhere.

Being too close to the fire, I was missing some of the light from the flames while in the fight, so it struck me like a slap in the face as I finally grasped the connection between flat out employment discrimination and part-time work thanks to this quote from John Schmitt, the senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research:

The only remaining legal form of discrimination in the labor market is against part-time workers.  You can hire part-time workers and full-time workers doing the same job, and you’re allowed to pay them different money and different benefits.

Wow!  That’s exactly correct, and I’m not sure how I was missing the connection.   Clearly it also matters more and more because the numbers of part-time workers are increasing and a huge amount of the new job creation is in part-time work.

According to an article in the New York Times,

Part-time work rose rapidly in the recession and early parts of the recovery, and it has not let up much. Today, 19.1 percent of workers say they usually work part time, defined as fewer than 35 hours a week, versus 16.9 percent when the recession started.

And, damned if they didn’t define part-time work as anything less than 35 hours!

Catherine Hemphill nails this even harder in the piece when she points out what REAL unemployment adds up to, especially once the part-timers asking for more hours are factored into the figures:

In March, 7.6 million Americans who want more hours were stuck in part-time jobs, about the same as a year earlier and three million more than there were when the recession began at the end of 2007.  These almost invisible underemployed workers do not count toward the standard jobless rate of 7.6 percent. A broader measure, which includes the involuntary part-timers as well as people who want to work but have stopped looking, stands at 13.8 percent.

13.8%, 7.6 million Americans pulling the bosses sleeves asking for couple of more hours.  These are amounts that matter, and when you turn over the rock and look at the discrimination as well in benefits with often no vacation, no premium pay, fewer, if any, holidays, and of course no health care or policies with costs through the roof, you can’t believe you didn’t trip over this earlier and fall harder on your face.

Eliminating this form of discrimination maybe virtually impossible, but the numbers alone argue to me that we need to start picking this fight.  They may beat us, but we ought to make them whip us first.

Audio Blog on Part-Time Workers