Whole Foods Gets Backlash for Reportedly Recommending Employees Donate Their PTO During Coronavirus

The company email sparked outrage.

Whole Foods

Image via Getty/Erik McGregor/LightRocket

Whole Foods

Whole Foods faced backlash this week over an internal email that outlined the company's protocols during the coronavirus pandemic. 

According to the email obtained by Vice's Motherboard, Whole Foods CEO John Mackey said employees have the option to receive unlimited, unpaid time off throughout the month of March, while those who test positive for the deadly disease can receive two weeks of paid sick leave.

So, you may be asking yourself: What about the workers who need more than 14 days off, but cannot afford to do so without pay? Well, here's the controversial part: Mackey informed employees they have the option to "donate" their paid time off to coworkers directly affected by the coronavirus.

"Team Members who have a medical emergency or death in their immediate family can receive donated PTO hours," Mackey reportedly wrote, "not only from Team Members in their own location, but also from Team Members across the country."

The suggestion sparked outrage across social media, as many pointed out that Whole Foods was a subsidiary of Amazon—the e-commerce giant owned by one of the richest men in the world.

Whole Foods CEO John Mackey has a net worth of around $75M (as of 2017).

The average hourly pay for a Whole Foods employee is $15.69.

Mackey could personally "donate" a week of pay to all of his 91,000 employees for $57M.

feel like he won't tho https://t.co/aCWKCppczo

— Eric Ravenscraft (@LordRavenscraft) March 13, 2020

Good thing I went to #traderjoes instead. There were 2 hr lines to get in & an hr line to pay. And each and every worker couldn’t have been sweeter. The CEO of #wholefoods is monstrous. This is absolutely disgusting. https://t.co/uYAku0qBAA

— Nancy Lee Grahn (@NancyLeeGrahn) March 13, 2020

"Considering [Whole Foods] is a billion dollar company, I think it is selfish asking the retail workers to figure it out within themselves," a Whole Foods cashier told Motherboard, under the condition of anonymity. "The response from [Whole Foods and Amazon] has been quite poor, being a front end cashier I feel like we are the most exposed to the situation ... Some of us have sick family members [whose] immune system is weak and [it] could be quite dangerous if they catch this virus."

An Amazon spokesperson addressed the controversy in a statement to Business Insider, stating the PTO donation policy was implemented before the acquisition.

"Amazon is matching all funds to the Whole Foods Fund since the acquisition to support the team needs during this unprecedented event, and all Whole Foods team members have access to the two-weeks paid time off related to coronavirus that was announced for all Amazon employees," the spokesperson said.

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