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Whole Foods Asks Employees to “Donate” Paid Time Off 

March 16th, 2020 Emma O'Connor

Whole FoodsIn the wake of coronavirus, some businesses have provided paid-time-off for infected employees, quarantined employees, or employees with sick family members, while others have not.  Workers at Whole Foods were outraged when they received a message from the company’s CEO, John Mackey, earlier this week asking healthy employees to “donate” their accumulated paid days off to sick employees.  Mackey wrote, “team members who have a medical emergency or death in the immediate family can receive donated PTO hours, not only from Team Members in their own location but also from Team Members across the country.” The email said that the company would give two weeks paid-time-off and unlimited unpaid time-off to employees that test positive for the virus, but no paid time off for those who are quarantined or suspect that they are ill.  An Amazon spokesperson released a statement explaining that donated PTO has been a “longstanding” policy at Whole Foods from before Amazon acquired the grocery store, but employees insist that this national emergency requires a different response.  

As a subsidiary of Amazon, Whole Foods is owned by Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man who has a net worth of $106.2 billion.  The company’s employees believe that Bezos could easily afford to give unlimited paid-time-off to those who are sick but chooses to force workers, many of whom live paycheck to paycheck, to sacrifice their own paid leave to help their colleagues.  “You’ve got the richest man in the world asking people who are living paycheck to paycheck to donate to each other,” said one former Whole Foods employee.  Another employee said that “considering [Whole Foods] is a billion-dollar company, I think it is selfish asking the retail workers to figure it out within themselves … being a front end cashier I feel like we are the most exposed to the situation.”  The policy disproportionately affects hourly cashiers and warehouse workers while Whole Foods has asked salaried employees to indefinitely work from home if they contract the coronavirus. When workers don’t have an adequate amount of PTO, they have to choose whether to go to work sick or sacrifice a paycheck.  

Jobs at Risk 

While the House’s new coronavirus bill guarantees two weeks of paid sick leave to full-time workers, it only applies to 20% of American employees.  The country’s largest employers with more than 500 workers are exempt from this requirement and they employ approximately 54% of American workers.  Additionally, businesses with less than 50 employees do not have to provide two weeks of PTO and they employ about 26% of workers. Ultimately, Americans could lose their jobs or escalate the spread of coronavirus if businesses do not adopt more generous PTO policies in the coming weeks. 

Seek Legal Assistance Today 

If your employer has violated your contractually agreed upon paid-time-off, seek legal assistance today. The Working Solutions Law Firm, located in New York City, can assist you. Contact us today at (646) 430-7930 to schedule a free case evaluation and receive experienced legal counsel.