By Micah Fleet
Virginia community colleges are the state’s largest employers of part-time workers, and a proposal from Gov. Bob McDonnell could have these employees’ wages cut by as much as one-third effective immediately.
The governor’s office has told state agencies that part-time wage employees should be limited to working only 29 hours a week. This comes in response to the federal Affordable Care Act, which guarantees health care benefits for any employee working more than 30 hours a week.
Buena Vista is home to one of Dabney S. Lancaster Community College’s satellite campuses. Dabney S. Lancaster, a two-year institution, employs 31 part-time workers, but Jeffrey Kraus, a Virginia Community College System spokesman, said the school’s 37 adjunct professors may also be affected.
“At the federal and state level, no one has explained how the 30-hour-a-week rule will affect these [adjunct] professors that are paid per class hours taught,” said Jeffrey Kraus, a spokesman for Virginia’s Community Colleges.
The financial effects of limiting part-time employee’s hours are significant. Virginia employs more than 37,000 wage employees, whose jobs range from custodial staff to media consultants, according to the Virginia Department of Human Resource Management. Providing health care for all of these workers could cost Virginia up to $110 million a year.
More than 9,000 of those part-time state employees are adjunct professors, who as of now don’t receive health benefits. Washington and Lee Law professor Timothy Jost is an expert on the Affordable Care Act and said that Virginia might not see an answer for its adjunct professors any time soon.
“This is a process,” said Jost. “Right now, at the federal level, they’re looking for comments on how to handle this situation.”
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) website has a link to a webpage where any citizen can comment on the clause of the Affordable Care Act that has to do with adjunct professors. IRS employees read the comments and note any suggestions that can help make the bill better. A public hearing will be held in Washington, D.C., April 23 to discuss possible changes to the health care law.