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Wal-Mart cutting back on healthcare coverage for new employees

BY Marianne Wilson

New York City — Wal-Mart Stores is cutting back healthcare coverage for new part-time workers and significantly raising premiums for many new full-time associates, the New York Times reported. It is a major turnaround for the retailer which, a few years back, under heavy criticism that many of its 1.4 million workers could not afford or did not qualify for coverage, expanded coverage for employees and their families. The move generated of flurry of positive publicity.

Under the new program, future part-time employees who work less than 24 hours a week on average will no longer qualify for any of the chain’s health insurance plans, according to the report.

In addition, any new employees who average 24 hours to 33 hours a week will no longer be able to include a spouse as part of their healthcare plan, although children can still be covered.

Although Wal-Mart cited rising health care costs for the changes in its coverage, the chain said the changes were not a result of the new federal health care law.

“Over the last few years, we’ve all seen our health care rates increase and it’s probably not a surprise that this year will be no different,” Wal-Mart spokesman Greg Rossiter told the Times. “We made the difficult decision to raise rates that will affect our associates’ medical costs. The decisions made were not easy, but they strike a balance between managing costs and providing quality care and coverage.”

According to the Times, Wal-Mart’s new health offerings will require many employees who smoke to pay a big penalty, an extra $10 to $90 each pay period — $260 to $2,340 a year — if they want health coverage. Other well-known companies, including The Home Depot, Macy’s and PepsiCo, also charge smokers more as part of their health plans.

“Tobacco users generally consume about 25% more healthcare services than nontobacco users,” Rossiter said in the Times article.

Wal-Mart also is reducing the amount of money it contributes to the savings accounts workers can use to pay for medical bills that are not covered under their plan, the report said. Last year, the company put $1,000 into accounts for families but it will cut the amount by half for next year to just $500.

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ODP HQ earns Energy Star certification

BY CSA STAFF

BOCA RATON, Fla. — Office Depot announced that the company’s global headquarters, located in Boca Raton, Fla., has earned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Energy Star certification. The certification signifies that the building performs in the top 25% of similar facilities nationwide for energy efficiency and meets strict energy efficiency performance levels set by the EPA, Office Depot reported.

"Office Depot is pleased to accept EPA’s Energy Star certification in recognition of our energy efficiency efforts,” said Edward Costa, VP construction for Office Depot. "Through this achievement, we have demonstrated our commitment to environmental stewardship while also lowering our energy costs.”

Energy-saving actions that Office Depot took to earn the Energy Star certification included retrofitting most of the lighting on the global headquarters’ campus, which consisted of:

  • Replacing all T5 lamps with 27-Watt, 4100 Kelvin lamps;

  • Changing all parking garage lights from 150-Watt metal-halide to 42-Watt florescent lamps; and

  • Reducing the amount of lamps that are on during the daylight hours by 70%.

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JCPenney helps dress vets for civilian life

BY CSA STAFF

PLANO, Texas — JCPenney and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, the nation’s first and largest non-profit, nonpartisan organization for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, announced that they are joining forces to provide America’s newest generation of military veterans with more than $1 million in apparel and footwear to start new civilian wardrobes.

"Our military servicemembers spend years wearing a uniform and many do not get the opportunity to build a wardrobe that makes it possible for them to go to a job interview, attend a friend’s wedding or simply enjoy a night out with their spouse," said Steve Lawrence, EVP and senior general merchandise manager for JCPenney. "Given all the sacrifices they make to serve our country, we’re doing our part as a leading American retailer to outfit our nation’s heroes with the head-to-toe looks needed to dress for any occasion with style."

To be eligible, military service members who served in Iraq or Afghanistan can go to therucksack.org from Oct. 20 through Nov. 20 to register for the JCPenney giveaway once they have confirmed their free membership with IAVA at iava.org. Following the registration period, over 6,000 qualified entries will be randomly selected to receive $200 in merchandise certificates toward the purchase of men’s or women’s apparel available at JCPenney or JCP.com.

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