22-hour work limit discourages student applicants

By Laura Fitzgerald, For The Miami Student

Miami University dining halls remain significantly understaffed, despite improvement.

In September, 65 percent of dining hall work shifts remained empty. According to Executive Food Service Manager John Pittman, that figure has now fallen to between 35 and 45 percent, depending on the day.

Food service assistant Janis Vaccariello said the understaffing results in longer wait times; students often have to spend their time between classes waiting on food.

“I get paid the same, I work the same number of hours, but it’s the students that suffer from it,” Vaccariello said.

Vaccariello said the lack of staff has other negative effects. With fewer people, the number of breaks employees get is limited. It also keeps the staff from doing other tasks, such as deep cleaning.

Ultimately, Vacceriello said students have become overworked to the point they just don’t want to work anymore.

Pittman said some shifts are easier to fill than others. Dinner shifts are fuller than lunch shifts, mostly because students have class around lunch time.

He said Dining Services is making changes to food service to help alleviate the problem, such as rethinking the menus to make them

more service-friendly. They also plan to rethink ways of ordering so they can move workers from prep to service areas.

“It’s not necessarily adding more people, but adding better ways of doing things,” Pittman said.

Measures previously employed to alleviate the problem include bringing in temp agencies, shifting staff between locations, hiring local high school students and utilizing the food truck, Pittman said. However, the measure that has helped the most, he said, is the temp agencies.

This past Family Weekend put an additional strain on dining staff, serving over 6,000 meals on Saturday and 5,000 on Sunday in Armstrong alone, Pittman said.

“We had some unfortunate wait times we would have liked to avoid,” Pittman said.

Another limiting factor is the restriction on the amount of hours students are allowed to work. According to Interim Director of Compensation Theresa Murphy, students can no longer work for the university for over 22 hours during the school year. The only exception is during summer and semester breaks, when the limit is extended to 40 hours.

One main reason for this is the Affordable Care Act, which requires employers to extend health benefits to employees who work an average of over 30 hours a week, Murphy said.

Both limits ensure that if a student works more hours during the summer and semester breaks, then they must work less during the school year to average out to less than 30 hours a week over the whole year.

Most part-time positions were never intended to include health benefits, Murphy said.

Murphy said the 22-hour cap was also instituted because it allows students to focus on their school work.

“Ideally, we feel like the students’ first purpose being here at Miami is to get the education,” Murphy said, “and while it is certainly beneficial for students to gain work experience . . . it does limit that as far as we can in terms of making sure that more time is focused on their education.”