A class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of nine former Whole Foods store managers claims they were wrongfully terminated and their characters defamed after they blew the whistle on “a nation-wide, corporate practice throughout Whole Foods stores that deprived employees of earned bonuses under the Whole Foods ‘Gainsharing’ program.”
Each of the nine plaintiffs, whose tenures with the company range from nine to 25 years, is seeking $25 million in damages. The suit was filed in D.C. Superior Court last week.
Earlier this month, the Associated Press reported that Whole Foods fired the team leaders of stores in Virginia, Maryland and Washington D.C. for improprieties in managing the Gainsharing program for their benefit at the expense of store employees. It reported that Whole Foods was determining how much money was involved and would make sure employees of the affected stores were properly compensated.
Whole Foods did not respond to SN’s request for comment on the lawsuit.
The Gainsharing program is designed to incentivize team members of departments that come in under budget by distributing the surplus among the employees in that department, according to the suit.
It claims the program was undermined by a corporate practice of “shifting labor costs” where if a department failed to meet its budget, store leaders were directed to shift the costs of the underperforming department to an over-performing department, thus affecting the over-performing team members’ bonuses.
The suit alleges that an employee of a store in the Mid-Atlantic region complained that they had not received a bonus that they’d earned due to the practice.
During the Whole Foods investigation that followed, the plaintiffs refused to adopt talking points that the practice of shifting labor costs was isolated to a few stores and they were subsequently fired, according to the lawsuit.