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Sand Springs Couple Says They Were Fired To Offset Cost Of Affordable Care Act

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Connie and Mark Watkins were both from from Carl's Jr. in Sand Springs. Connie and Mark Watkins were both from from Carl's Jr. in Sand Springs.
Mark said one of the owners told the general managers to replace outgoing full-time employees with several part-time employees, who wouldn't fall under the mandatory health coverage. Mark said one of the owners told the general managers to replace outgoing full-time employees with several part-time employees, who wouldn't fall under the mandatory health coverage.
SAND SPRINGS, Oklahoma -

As the Affordable Care Act mandates continue to go into effect, more companies are considering cuts as to offset extra costs.

Starting next year, businesses with more than 50 full-time employees must pay health benefits for those employees.

A Sand Springs couple believes they're suffering the backlash of President Barack Obama's healthcare law.

11/19/2012 Related Story: Oklahomans Split On Healthcare Exchange Decision

"They're finding a way to save themselves at the expense of us people," said Connie Watkins.

Connie was fired from her General Manager job at Carl's Jr., in Sand Springs, in November.

She'd been with the company for 27 years.

Her husband, Mark, was GM at another location. Mark said he was in a meeting after his wife was fired, and his boss talked about rising new health care costs.

"He said it was probably going to cost their company $775,000, just for the insurance, and it was something they just couldn't afford," Mark said.

Star Chasers Oklahoma owns 36 Carl's Jr. locations, including the two where Connie and Mark worked.

Mark said one of the owners told the general managers to replace outgoing full-time employees with several part-time employees, who wouldn't fall under the mandatory health coverage.

He said he was later fired for cause, after 29 years with the company.

"We feel that we were singled out, we were sacrificed," Mark said.

The couple said they think it's a loophole that some companies are cutting staff or hours to pay less in healthcare costs.

"If Obama health care is going to succeed, then we've got to stop the loopholes," Connie said.

According to a new report in Financial Times, Wendy's, Dunkin' Donuts and Baskin Robbins have said they're looking at slashing hours for employees to avoid paying more under the Affordable Care Act.

A Taco Bell franchise in Guthrie is already limiting employees to 28 hours a week.

Connie said she had one write up on her record and it was a year before she was fired. She's now in a legal battle with Star Chasers Oklahoma over unemployment benefits.

Star Chasers Oklahoma says Connie was fired for cause, but wouldn't discuss it further.

The company denies making any cuts in staff or hours due to healthcare costs, and says it hasn't even tallied how much the Affordable Care Act is going to cost the company.

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