I love me some Whole Foods’ vegan General Tso’s chicken, but I seem to have lost my appetite after reading that Whole Foods is discriminating against its fat employees by offering their thinner coworkers as much as a 10 percent additional employee discount. Jezebel has the scoop.
Whole Foods CEO John Mackey explains the program in a letter, reproduced below. Apparently it’s part of an initiative to reduce health care costs, which is interesting since Mackey is against the health care reforms that would actually reduce costs for all people.
Note that Mackey knows BMI isn’t a perfect measure of health, but at least it’s cheap! Even more fun, though, is the poster for the new Healthy Discount program, breaking down exactly what BMI range his minions need in order to get various discounts on his Tofu Pups.
If your BMI is above 30, you’ll get to keep the original 20% employee discount, but you’ll paying more than your thinner co-workers, who can knock as much as 30% off. Because if public health research has taught us anything, it’s that reducing people’s buying power totally makes them healthier. Stay classy, Whole Foods.
(copies of the announcements are available after the jump)
To put this into perspective: to receive the maximum 30 percent employee platinum discount, a 5-foot-4-inch Whole Foods employee would have to weigh less than 140-pounds and a 6-foot employee less than 177-pounds. That is, of course, assuming they also meet the attendant platinum levels cholesterol, smoking and blood pressure requirements. And because this is all in the name of health, say that same 5-foot-4-inch employee meets all the cholesterol, smoking and blood pressure requirements of the platinum level but they weigh 175-pounds, which means that they have a BMI of 30. Their added discount? Nada.
Whole Foods is careful to point out that they’re not penalizing employees who do not participate or who do not meet their admittedly “imperfect” bio-markers for health — all employees will keep their basic 20 percent discount — but, in effect, they are penalizing these workers by selectively rewarding those who hand over their private medical files and meet incentive requirements. Whole Foods CEO John Mackey cites an attempt to curb rising health care costs as the impetus for the program, but do the ends justify the means? Ironically, the company’s plan to slenderize employees by dangling before them an organic carrot may actually work to increase health premiums in the long run. Remember that many an eating disorder begins as a simple diet and desire to “eat healthy.” Now consider that eating disorders alone cost U.S. companies about $3.8 billion a year in lost productivity.
By rewarding a BMI of 24 — a full point below what is considered the benchmark of “overweight” — Whole Foods is not-so-subtly indicating its preference that a lower BMI is better and ideal, thus contributing to an atmosphere in which employees who do not meet this standards are made to feel ostracized and targeted. These blanket standards also ignore genetic, gender, age and ethnic differences across groups, thereby directing this sense of corporate hostility, however passive, toward those employees who may already be among the most vulnerable in the workplace: minorities, women and senior citizens. Would we tolerate this kind of “incentive” if it were directed at other groups of workers? Consider this: in at least half the states, marital status isn’t a condition protected by state or federal anti-discrimination laws. Many other states, like Ohio, are “at-will” employment states, meaning that workers can be fired without just cause (so long as its not based on unlawful discrimination, which even then must be proven). Whole Foods could also save a lot of money both in terms of productivity and health care costs if they offered similar incentives to employees who make the “lifestyle choice” to remain single, childless or who limit their family sizes to a number that’s more cost-effective for the company’s bottom line.
Absurd!, you gasp. Unfair! A person’s marital or parental status has nothing to do with their work performance!
Make your concerns and outrage known by contacting Whole Foods here.