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Whole Foods discriminating against overweight employees

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Old 02-06-2010, 05:28 PM   #1
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Default Whole Foods discriminating against overweight employees

Just came across this article on msn about Whole Foods. I personally think this new policy is terrible but there are many ways to look at it I guess.


http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com...cpg=2#uc2Ls t
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Old 02-06-2010, 05:38 PM   #2
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I read that a few days ago. I don't see it as discrimination, I see it as a way to motivate people to be healthier.

I also like their policy on health insurance and health savings plans.

But their pricing? Now that is something I think is disgusting. So expensive!!
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Old 02-06-2010, 07:10 PM   #3
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Even if it is discriminatory, it's perfectly legal in most states (only a few states ban fat-descrimination). Even in states in which it's not legal, if a company can rationalized the discrimination as a requirement of the job they're protected.

Ultimately though I think it's important to realize that this is a policy to benefit the company, not the employee and it needs to be seen as such.

We know that poverty contributes to obesity, and that grocery store employees aren't well-paid. Wouldn't the overweight employees benefit more from the extra savings on healthy food?

Do "incentives" for health really work? Especially when they're based on rewarding certain states of health, not improvement in health states. Reinforcing thinness, doesn't necessarily reinforce weight loss. Reinforcing non-smokers, doesn't necessarily reinforce smoking-cessation.

Rewarding the wealthy sure doesn't help poor people become wealthier, and I think some of these health incentives work much the same way. They don't help people find the tools to become members of the elite club that's being rewarded.

I'm not arguing that the companies don't have the right to create such policies, I just don't think they have the effect the companies claim they're trying to encourage. I think it's more about saving money than helping people. Even when the intentions are good, it seems the policy makers don't understand the problems very well.

I worked for a big company that tried incentives for non-smokers, but it wasn't effective in creating more non-smokers. The "prizes" just weren't big enough to tempt smokers into quitting (or they didn't see it as doable). However, when they added quit-smoking incentives, and made smoking more inconvenient at work (the only smoking areas were in the parking lot in a designated shelter - employees called it the butt-hut), that helped. My sister still works there and they recently added a smoking ban on the entire property (including in your car, in the parking lot. If you wanted to smoke you have to do it off-property on your lunch hour).
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Old 02-06-2010, 07:39 PM   #4
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I agree, Kaplods. I sincerely doubt that any savings the Wholefoods company realizes in its insurance bill will NOT be passed along to its employees or customers!
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Old 02-06-2010, 10:19 PM   #5
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well sure-- If youve ever seen a job description that says that the applicant must lift 100 pounds continuously, that really means "no women can apply"
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Old 02-06-2010, 10:49 PM   #6
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well sure-- If youve ever seen a job description that says that the applicant must lift 100 pounds continuously, that really means "no women can apply"

Probably true more often than not, but not necessarily. My hubby's last job was one of those. The admissions test required applicants to be able to lift a 100 plus weight and hold it for a given length of time, and also to carry a 75 lb weight back and forth several times over a distance of something like 20 to 30 feet.

Most of the applicants and employees were men, but there were more and more women making the cut (and they didn't loosen the admission requirements, there were just more and more women strong enough to pass the test and do the job).

The job really did require some seriously bullish strength, and so mostly men qualified, but the women who did make the cut were given major respect (except apparently by the men who weren't as strong as the women they made fun of - which usually earned them some serious harassing by the women and the stronger men as a result). Hubby always said he loved working with women on his crew the best, because a lot of the men seemed to try to get by doing as little as they could, while the women tended to work as hard as they could to prove they could do the job as well or better than the men (and they usually did).

Funny thing was one of their best workers was a tiny little thing (who had been a stripper before she was hired by the plant). The guys called her "ant," because ants are so small, but can lift and carry 10 to 50 times their own body weight.
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Old 02-07-2010, 10:39 AM   #7
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on the upside whole foods will pay for 300 folks at a time who want to go to health immersions with dr.fuhrman, dr mcdougall, and someone else. thats a big plus for a company to shell out upwards of 6K to help a person meet with doctors dietitians and trainers to learn how to be healthier.
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Old 02-07-2010, 10:58 AM   #8
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I am raising my eyebrows over the blood pressure - sure there must be people who are not overweight and still have a high blood pressure? Genes are a strong factor, too.
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Old 02-07-2010, 07:28 PM   #9
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Many companies are turning to these types of policies. The bottom line is, medical leaves and sick days are unplanned absences, and those are very expensive. An unhealthy employee misses more work days (either from being sick or on an extended medical leave). If they can promote health, they improve their lost workdays.

I personally think it's creepy. The less my employer knows about my personal life, the better.
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Old 02-08-2010, 01:16 AM   #10
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I am raising my eyebrows over the blood pressure - sure there must be people who are not overweight and still have a high blood pressure? Genes are a strong factor, too.
a lot of thin folks were upset to be getting a lower or no increased discount because of their blood pressure or because of their chloresterol. and of course, smokers only get the standard 20 percent.
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Old 02-08-2010, 01:55 AM   #11
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So, I've never been a smoker, my cholesterol and blood pressure are what a 20 year old athlete's might be, but my BMI is OFF THE CHARTS. Would I get the extra discount (enabling me to buy more food, and not all of it "healthy" food? )?.

If they measured a healthy range of body fat percentage instead of BMI I'd feel differently about this policy (more positive).
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Old 02-09-2010, 05:34 PM   #12
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Any company that gives health insurance to its employes is penalized by higher premiums for obese employees.
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Old 03-04-2010, 11:30 AM   #13
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Any company that gives health insurance to its employes is penalized by higher premiums for obese employees.
Not only does the company pay more, even the employees pay more to cover the difference in costs because the pricing is standard for everyone. And has been stated, they are not punishing employees that don't meet this criteria, they are rewarding employees that do.

Although you won't be pulling in the salary or benefits at Whole Foods that you would if you worked for, say, Goldman Sachs, but they have consistently been within the top 25 in Fortune Mag's Best Companies to Work For for the past decade. Their CEO/founder even voluntarily reduced his salary to $1 during the economic downturn in an attempt to save as many jobs as possible. They have salary caps on executive pay as well and base it on how much the lowest paid employee is making. It's a grocery store, but this isn't your average Safeway.

It certainly sucks that some people don't get to benefit from the extra 10% discount due to something completely out of their control, but like I wrote in the other post, statistically these people are still more likely to have health complications resulting in higher medical costs whether the cause is genetic or not. The skinny people in horrible health? They won't qualify for the discount either. The incentive isn't out to punish anyone, but rather attempt to cut costs at a time when everyone is counting every penny.
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Old 03-06-2010, 12:42 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by QuilterInVA View Post
Any company that gives health insurance to its employes is penalized by higher premiums for obese employees.
Can you please explain this to me? Do you get asked how much you weigh when you are hired anywhere? Here, in Canada, that would be a question that the employer is not allowed to ask so that you cannot be discriminated against based on personal stuff. I am not sure if weight would be part of it but I would think so. Of course, the employers are not stupid and although they cannot ask you, say, "How many children do you have?" or "Do you have children?", they 'repackage' the question into a more politically correct form and ask instead, for example, "Would travelling on the job cause problems with family obligations?' or something similar.
I know obesity is hard to hide but there must be some charts or other data by which one would get classified, it can't be on looks only.
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Old 03-06-2010, 12:46 AM   #15
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I'm not sure how it is in various places, but around here employer connected insurance is generally all comers, with premium based on age only. Obviously premiums overall are affected by costlier and cheaper users - but that is true whether you're talking employer provided, singly/personally obtained insurance, or national healthcare. The whole point of health insurance (apart from catastrophic coverage) is spread the cost around. Otherwise there is no point.
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