Fat employees receive fewer benefits at Whole Foods

There are a lot of problems with Whole Foods’ policy of awarding larger discounts to employees with lower blood pressure, cholesterol and BMI.


There is the issue of privacy, of course. In order to determine what level of discount has been earned, an employee is required to subject him or herself to a physical examination and surrender private medical information to his or her employer. 

There are also genetic conditions and illnesses that prevent individuals from achieving the blood pressure, cholesterol and BMI levels that Whole Foods requires for the highest discount possible. While Whole Foods has attempted to mitigate these concerns by offering specialized consideration for legitimate medical issues, this would require employees to disclose even more medical information to their employer.

Once again, privacy concerns abound.

There is also an apparent disregard to the connection between a healthy diet and the amount of money a person can spend for food.

The research is clear:

The more a person can spend on food, the more likely his or her food choices will be healthy ones. Offering larger discounts to employees who are already exhibiting healthy eating habits only serves to perpetuate the chasm between those who can afford healthy food and those who cannot.

But all of these concerns pales in comparison to the real problem with Whole Foods policy:

It sounds like an incentive policy created by a bunch of condescending, judgmental jerk faces.

The title to this blog post is “Fat employees receive fewer benefits at Whole Foods.” While this sentence was admittedly chosen for its inflammatory nature, it’s factually accurate. It contains no exaggeration.

Fat employees, or employees with elevated blood pressures and levels of cholesterol are granted fewer benefits as a result of their physical condition.

Not good.

Even if an incentive plan is logical and based upon irrefutable scientific research, it can still appear mean-spirited and elitist.

This one does. 

Whole Foods needs to ask itself:

Is rating our employees based upon specific physical attributes and then assigning them levels (designated by a gold, silver or bronze label) sound like a nice thing to do?

No, it doesn’t.

Furthermore, there are so many other ways for Whole Foods management to incentivize their employees to lead healthier lives that don’t involve weighing them, sticking them with needles and dividing them into metallically-labeled levels of achievement.

Rather than a 20% discount on everything in the store, Whole Foods could offer a 40% discount on fruits and vegetables only.

They could offer free consultations with nutritionists and trainers or discounted memberships to local gyms.

They could subsidize the co-pay on an employee’s annual physical.

But categorizing employees by weight and blood pressure for the purposes of offering varying discounts on food purchases?

Even if it works to improve the overall health of the workforce, it’s just not nice, and it doesn’t project the right image for a company that is all about image.