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Darden tries expanding part-timers

NEW YORK — The owner of Olive Garden and Red Lobster restaurants is putting more workers on part-time status in a test aimed at limiting costs from President Obama’s health care law.

Darden Restaurants Inc. declined to give details but said the test is in four markets across the country. The move entails boosting the number of workers on part-time status, meaning they work less than 30 hours a week.

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Under the new health care law, companies with 50 or more workers could be hit with fines if they do not provide basic coverage for full-time workers and their dependents.

Darden, which operates more than 2,000 restaurants in the United States and Canada, employs about 180,000 people. The company says about 75 percent of its employees are currently part-timers.

Bob McAdam, who heads government affairs and community relations for Darden, said that Darden is not alone in looking at ways to keep labor costs in check.

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