Jillian Lovejoy Lowery and I took on the decision by Whole Foods’s CEO to offer increased store discounts to employees based on their overall health. Her side is available at the Perpetual Post’s main site.

I would like to applaud Whole Foods CEO Steve Mackey for introducing a plan that offers his employees a larger store discount based on their overall physical health and fitness. No longer just a patronizing corporation with a moral-superiority complex, Whole Foods is showing that it cares enough about its employees to do what it can to lower its company healthcare costs.

All company employees currently enjoy an impressive 20% store discount, which serves to make Whole Foods products only approximately twice as expensive as the products carried in other supermarkets. However, beginning in January of 2010, employees who meet certain health criteria, including low blood pressure, cholesterol, BMI and no nicotine use, will be entitled to enjoy a further discount of up to 30%.

Upon learning this news, the blood-pressure of many Whole Foods employees temporarily rendered them ineligible for participation in the program.

Still, many agree that it’s about time the obese are punished financially, and not just from health problems and discrimination from their peers and society in general. It’s also fitting that those who are physically fit be monetarily rewarded for being so, as they enjoy few other privileges from being healthy and in shape.
The goal of the program is likely aesthetic as well as cost-conscious. After all, how inspired would you be to purchase a $7 box of organic Kashi Go Lean Crunch cereal that has been laboriously stocked by an obese, heavy-breathing Team Member with a pack of Parliaments sticking out of his back pocket?

Mackey’s letter to employees introducing the program, which was leaked to the media by an employee who was interested in sharing the news of their CEO’s generosity with the rest of the world, states that “we believe this is a win-win program that will help both our Team members and our shareholders.”

The next step on this road will likely be for Mackey to encourage healthy behavior in his shareholders by offering them increased stock options based on their smoking habits and weights. I’m sure that this program will be rolling out very shortly, and I plan to keep an eye out for that memo.