Nine former Whole Foods Market managers have filed a class-action lawsuit against the grocery chain after being fired for allegedly manipulating employee bonuses. The managers, meanwhile, claim that their dismissal stemmed from their whistleblowing vis à vis what they allege is a nationwide internal bonus manipulation problem.
The former managers filed their complaint this week in the Washington D.C. Superior Court after their December 1 firings, which were announced by Whole Foods last week.
The complaint is connected to Whole Foods’ gainsharing program, which allows departments that come in under budget to take advantage of these profits and distribute the profits between employees. The former managers argue that Whole Foods Market engaged in wage theft by systematically not paying these bonuses earned by employees, instead using the money to make up the difference when store departments went over budget. They also allege that they were punished for blowing the whistle on this after a “sham internal investigation.”
The company claims that the fired managers shifted labor costs between departments to prevent employees who earned a bonus from receiving it, while the lawsuit claims that this practice was not isolated to the nine area stores, as Whole Foods Market claims, but rather “a decision made at the executive level … to pad company profits.”
"Whole Foods needed proverbial fall guys," the suit states. "Whole Foods retaliated against Plaintiffs by wrongfully terminating all of them."
The nine former managers, who worked at stores in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia, are each seeking $25 million in damages, reports SFGate.
"These allegations are not consistent with the findings to date of our internal investigations and we will respond appropriately," Betsy Harden, a spokeswoman for Whole Foods Market said in a statement.
The Washington Post notes that gainsharing programs such as the one used by Whole Foods Market have been “criticized as a way for companies to identify ways to cut labor costs, rewarding workers in the short term but potentially eliminating jobs in the long term.”
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