Whole Foods sued over bonus manipulation

WASHINGTON — A current and a former employee of a Whole Foods Market in D.C. have filed a class-action lawsuit against the grocery chain.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in D.C., follows last week’s announcement that Whole Foods had fired nine store managers in D.C., Maryland and Virginia.

Whole Foods has a program that rewards employees who work in departments that generate surpluses, by giving them bonuses. The company said the fired managers shifted labor costs — a bookkeeping move that puts the cost overruns of one department on the books of a department that’s running a surplus — thus preventing employees who earned bonuses from actually getting the extra money.

The lawsuit claims the practice was going on not just at the nine area stores but nationwide, and was not just a scheme by the nine managers but “a decision made at the executive level … to pad company profits.” The suit says that a program that allowed employees to float from one department to another in order to help where needed was used to shift the labor costs.

One current and one former employee of the Whole Foods store on P Street in Northwest D.C. filed the lawsuit. It claims those workers are owed more than $75,000 and calls for punitive damages.

In a statement, Whole Foods spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan said the grocer is looking into the issues raised by the lawsuit.

“As we do with any allegations affecting our team members and customers, we will continue to conduct a thorough inquiry. Once our investigation is complete, we will take all necessary steps to correct any errors we identify,” Buchanan said.

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