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Whole Foods Market is reportedly monitoring its employees' online postings, including on private accounts if it finds a way to gain viewing privileges to them. The snooping comes in wake of its CEO's controversial comments.  (Source: LIFE)
Big brother (your WFM manager) is watching you online, even if your page is private

Whole Foods Market, based out of Austin, Texas, is one of the nation's largest health-food supermarket chains with over 275 locations in the United States, Canada, and the UK.  It has traditionally been listed as a top place to work as it provides its employees with competitive wages and much better health benefits than many of its competitors.

The company is currently struggling with an identity crisis, with CEO John Mackey looking to purge what he views as unhealthy evils such as processed sugars and white bread from the chain's lineup.  And he created a major storm of publicity when he attacked President Obama's healthcare reform plan in a Wall Street Journal interview.  And to top it all off, sales of the company are slipping.

Amid this harsh atmosphere and its CEO's controversial comments, the company is reportedly cracking down on employees' expression of dissatisfaction online.  DailyTech interviewed Whole Foods Market employees at several locations, and according to them the chain has implemented a zero tolerance policy with regards to online postings and is aggressively monitoring its employees.

One employee reports that the company discovered a post on their private Facebook page via a friend who leaked the info.  The post complained about a long day and obnoxious customers.  Despite the fact that the general public could not view the page, WFM reportedly gave the employee a disciplinary notice and disciplined several other employees who commented on the post as well.  WFM is reportedly monitoring its employee's Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, and blog accounts both directly and via friends (for private accounts) to identify and silence such complaints.

While such WFM is by no means the first employer to carry out such a campaign, it remains alarming nonetheless that the company is going to such lengths to scrutinize casual comments on private online posting spots.  It is unclear if the policy has been adopted nationwide, but it's clear at least that it has been adopted across the state that the interviews were conducted in, which is home to several WFM stores.

The employees we spoke with called the tactic "intrusive" and "scary".  They also expressed concern that the actions of their company's CEO are provoking the company to attack its employees as a reactionary response to the embarrassment his comments are causing.

Employees written up unfortunately have little recourse inside the store.  Unlike many grocers, Whole Foods Market is not unionized.  However, it would seem unsurprising to see employees sue the company for invasion of privacy if this policy continues.

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RE: Unionize whole foods?
By kamel5547 on 11/24/2009 7:56:46 PM , Rating: 5
1. At-will employment
2. See #1, it doesn't really matter.

An employer can terminate at-will employees at any time for any reason that is not discriminatory or a violation of labor laws. Sure a union employee could file a grievance and a employee with a contract could use that contracts language (possibly) to fight something like this, but ont an at-will employee.

I agree that the trend is bothersome especially if people take the precaution of limiting access via privacy features. That being said I think legally speaking there is no issue (I am not a lawyer, I just read a lot of employment law related items).

RE: Unionize whole foods?
By brshoemak on 11/27/2009 8:11:44 PM , Rating: 2
^Exactly right.

As long as you don't fire someone Race, Color, Religion, Sex, National Origin, Age, Sex and now Genetics (2008) an at-will employer can fire you if they think you're looking at them funny.

RE: Unionize whole foods?
By Fracture on 11/30/2009 2:40:26 PM , Rating: 2
I wish I could post and rank down comments at the same time, but since I can't, I'll knock down the myth that Reclaimer77 and a few others are perpetuating:
First off, what you say on Facebook should be obviously protected by the First Amendment.

The First Amendment protects your speech from the government. Not everyone else. And as kamel5547 so aptly put it:
1. At-will employment

This is first and foremost the issue at hand - Whole Foods has the right to take whatever action it deems fit of its employees violating its code of conduct. And if you really want to keep it private, try not having friends that will give up the password and sell you out.

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